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PostPosted: Mon Feb 09, 2015 9:35 am 

Joined: Tue Aug 12, 2014 7:56 pm
Posts: 1668
That's so interesting to read... I had a similar prologue-stuck experience but completely different. I got all the hidden items, but I failed to advance because my image of the lightsource was completely wrong; I simply did not know what that item actually was, and thought I did. Naturally, one of its properties was thus hidden to me.

The hidden exit... even on my very first ever playthrough I found that exit very naturally, it was the first puzzle I solved in Jigsaw and I solved it within the first six or seven moves. It's amaszing how mileage can vary.

I don't think you need *all* the sketches to win the game, but I'm somewhat hazy on this?...

EDIT - Yeah, the walkthrough says you need to sketch at least four animals to get a prize. Possibly if you sketch them all you get the super-duper ending, but at least you're not completely locked out of the ending if you miss the bird.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 09, 2015 12:46 pm 

Joined: Thu Feb 04, 2010 5:00 pm
Posts: 505

that hidden exit is not so hidden. It's somewhat sugested from the description of a nearby room. I believe it's almost literally stumbled upon when you try a wrong exit from it. Indeed, first "puzzle" solved. Had no problem with the light once I had the proper item. But I didn't find 2 key items from the prologue snd started over before continuing.

In any case, true to its time travel theme, this is a game to keep coming back to.

puzzleless IF is puzzling

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 09, 2015 4:22 pm 

Joined: Tue Jan 22, 2008 5:55 am
Posts: 1246
Location: The Netherlands
I have received a new anonymous list!
A Mind Forever Voyaging, Infocom
At Wit’s End, Mike Sousa
Circuit’s Edge, Westwood Associates
Fail-Safe, Jon Ingold
Guild of Thieves, Magnetic Scrolls
Guilty Bastards, Kent Tessman
Knight Orc, Level 9
I-0, Adam Cadre
Slouching Towards Bedlam, Star Foster and David Ravipinto
Jinxter, Magnetic Scrolls
LASH, Paul O’Brian
Photopia, Adam Cadre
Mentula Macanus, Adam Thornton
Narcolepsy, Adam Cadre
Party Arty, Man of La Munchies, Jonathan Blask
Rameses, Stephen Bond
Savoir-Faire, Emily Short
Spellcasting 101: Sorcerers Get All The Girls, Legend Entertainment
Spider and Web, Andrew Plotkin
Zork, Infocom

Thanks to our anonymous voter. :-)

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 10, 2015 11:15 am 

Joined: Thu Apr 03, 2014 9:44 am
Posts: 138
Here are mine. I give style and atmosphere much more importance than polish--If I remember the setting and story and characters even years later, by that point bugs and unimplemented scenery don't bother me at all.

Deadline Enchanter -- Showed me that a game doesn't have to play by the rules. This should have seemed broken and yet it is hard to forget.
Fallacy of Dawn -- I love the setting and characters.
For a Change -- My favorite opening lines. This type of surreality is still very rare in IF.
Little Blue Men -- A good build-up. Most creepy.
Photopia -- Was my favorite IF for many years.
Pytho's Mask -- Vivid and intriguing setting.
Robin & Orchid -- A pure joy to wander around in and experience this world.
Savoir-Faire -- Great setting and magic system which instantly evokes whole novels in my mind. Worthy of a historical fantasy novel.
Shade -- Creepy, seemed to break IF out of its shell of separate rooms and static objects.
Treasures of a Slaver's Kingdom -- Parodic, but also really fun.
Varicella -- My favorite cast of characters in IF. Worthy of an HBO show.
Weird City Interloper -- A wonderful and bizarre setting, all in (implied) dialogue.
With Those We Love Alive -- Perfect mix of theme and action and emotion.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 10, 2015 2:02 pm 

Joined: Tue Mar 18, 2008 9:04 am
Posts: 1117
Caleb, did you play Matt Fendahleen's August? "Unpolished but memorable" pretty much nails it, as I recall.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 10, 2015 2:59 pm 

Joined: Thu Apr 03, 2014 9:44 am
Posts: 138
emshort wrote:
Caleb, did you play Matt Fendahleen's August? "Unpolished but memorable" pretty much nails it, as I recall.

Matt Fendahleen! Yup, I remember liking that one. I was hoping to see more games from him.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 10, 2015 4:43 pm 

Joined: Mon Nov 03, 2014 1:41 pm
Posts: 13
Counterfeit Monkey:
A mechanic that I thought could never be implemented satisfyingly. But my goodness was I wrong. The world is so amazingly constructed, the tone is just right, and it is a constant joy to revisit.

The Baron:
I vividly remember playing The Baron and Photopia a few years ago. It was about the time I'd started to get into IF. I was appalingly ill and had taken a few days off school. In between the schnozzle blasts and dreary slumber I thought I'd play some IF to lift the spirits. Although they certainly didn't make me any happier (I couldn't have chosen worse games for that, right?), I was astounded by them both. They fascinated me, shocked me; and I will never forgot lying in my bed, the lights dimmed to near darkness, with a putrid smell of medicine journeying through the air, while I endured the horrors of The Baron and the grief of Photopia.

[Read above]

Hunter, In Darkness:
I will never fully work out why I love this game so much, but for some reason it is, to me, a spectacular little gem.

Hadean Lands:
How to perfect the classic text adventure.

80 Days:
Did not expect to like this one suspecting it would be really cliched, but it turned out to be fantastically addictive. It was so much bigger than I expected. Oh, and I loved the multiplayer element.

Mentula Macanus: Apocolocyntosis:
Stiffy's hedonistic adventure is unparalleled in all of IF.

All Roads:
I haven't played this in a long while, so I'm vague on the details, but I distinctly remember being perplexed by this game and replaying it loads – and of course enjoying it thoroughly. But I'm still not sure if I ever worked out what it was all about.

Blue Lacuna:
Aaron tells the tale (in this video) of a pissed off guy who sent an email to him when the game – right at the end – muddled the pronouns for Rume. I mention this because I have a somewhat queasy feeling that the irate person in question just might have been me :p It certainly took me aback when watching the video. Anyway, forgetting that, I really do adore this game. Blue Lacuna has the most immersive environment of any IF work; I still visit it regularly.

Once I'd realised the game's 'trick', I don't think I had ever been more impressed in my life. It was a brilliant way to represent the player character. [edit: okay, bit of an overstatement -- it's not the absolute most impressive thing I've ever seen in my life, but it was profoundly clever.]

Horse Master:
I think I 'won' this game, but it always lingers disgustingly in my mind. Which is why I love it.

Ultra Business Tycoon III:
Porpentine's games, as I suspect is the case for many, got me into twine. Particularly Ultra Business Tycoon III. It's a bit of cliché to say this kind of thing now, but I was heavily into parser-based works and didn't, until playing this, realise just how impressive hypertext works could be. And this is still undoubtedly one of the best twines out there.

their angelical understanding:
I still don't fully get everything in the game (nor should I, I'm guessing), but the prose and the fragments of the game that make sense to me are so evocative. Something about 'moths nibbling on tarnished night' remains impressed onto my memory.

Analogue: A Hate Story:
I was split between this and Hate Plus. I loved first learning of the regressive world introduced to us, and the revelations in discovering it, but then I loved the politics of the second game. However, seeing as someone else already voted for this one I choose tactically.

Lost Pig:
Ah, now this is the game that really got me into IF. A friend at school, who would always find the oddest tech-related, and particularly iPod Touch-related things to show me, one day presented Frotz to me on his iPod Touch 2G (I remember well). It was something along the lines of 'hey, look at all these weird text games you can play!' I had a very foggy idea of what Zork was, and the novelty intrigued me. I was hopeless at Zork though, and equally inept when trying Spider and Web – which looked really bloody interesting but I could never seem to get anywhere with it. (I actually only completed it a few months ago. It literally has taken me years of on-off playing, embarrassingly.) Anyway, I at some point opened up Lost Pig and would play it between classes and it just clicked. The puzzles were just right, the humour was great, the characters distinct, and replaying the game now only reaffirms of all this. And I have to include the game that quite possibly hooked me onto IF.

Queers in Love at the End of the World:
Definitely the shortest game on the list. But a great concept executed deftly. Every time I play it I have the insatiable desire to achieve that 'perfect' last 10 seconds, but of course I can never quite make it.

Ollie Ollie Oxen Free:
Few other games manage NPCs this well, and the result is spectacularly immersive and indeed affecting. I certainly think this to be one of the most underrated IF games.

I didn't intend to litter the list with anecdotes and so much first person – sorry! But I started to realised that I also associate many of the games with certain moments in time, and I'd be lying to say that doesn't factor into my judgement.

And this 'best of' is proving really insightful. Thanks for organising it Victor. People have mentioned loads of interesting games I've yet to play.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 15, 2015 3:16 am 

Joined: Fri Oct 14, 2011 5:54 am
Posts: 155
In the future it might be interesting to ask voters to also list the first work of IF they remember playing and enjoying. It would be interesting to see if there is any kind of "anchoring" effect where players are biased towards enjoying the games that were released around the time they first started playing IF.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 15, 2015 6:07 pm 

Joined: Tue Mar 18, 2008 9:04 am
Posts: 1117
My list:

Plundered Hearts (Amy Briggs/Infocom) -- Probably my favorite of the Infocom age, with more plot, more active NPCs, and better integrated puzzles than the Infocom average. It pulls off swashbuckling romance better than pretty much any IF game I can think of (though, sadly, not as many have tried as I might like). It feels a bit player-unfriendly by modern standards, but with a bit of patience it still has a lot to offer even now.

Spider and Web (Andrew Plotkin) -- One of the best story-and-puzzle moments in all of interactive fiction, in which the protagonist does something that is not only surprising and clever but also has a profound effect on the other major character in the game. People talk a lot about the puzzle design here, but often I think in the process they undervalue how much of its success comes from the puzzle-story integration. There's something wonderful about solving this puzzle and getting a huge reaction out of the story.

Horse Master (Tom McHenry) -- Compellingly gross, with a very effective switch on what kind of story it's even going to be: it starts out feeling like a sim and winds up as a dystopian horror story about poverty and exploitation. One of the most viscerally powerful games I've played. Today I happen to give it a slight edge over Michael Lutz's My Father's Long, Long Legs, which could also have occupied this slot, because in Horse Master I was fooled into thinking maybe I could make things come out well, whereas in MFLLL I pretty much always realized things were going badly. But on a different day I might go the other way.

Fallen London (Failbetter Games) -- FL's size and structure are unique, providing a network of stories that you can sink into and inhabit for months or years. The content ranges from silly to horrific to affecting. People have often talked about the possibility of shared-world writing in the IF space, but this is one of the few to actually pull it off, since FL's contents and related games have been worked on by many authors over the years. (* Disclaimer: I've written for FL myself; otoh, my contributions are a drop in the ocean, and I was not involved in any of the original design.)

Endless, Nameless (Adam Cadre) -- A severely under-discussed game when it came out, EN wraps a quite entertaining old-school puzzlefest up inside its own hint system, capturing some of the pleasure of really difficult old games while being substantially more accessible than they were. Content-wise, it asks a bunch of questions about the meaning of art and community and how communities can defend themselves from disintegration. It's both a fairer play and a more nuanced piece of writing than Varicella, and it does more with its medium-bending aspects than 9:05 or Shrapnel.

ULTRA BUSINESS TYCOON III (Porpentine) -- it's tough deciding between this one and the tactile, disturbing With Those We Love Alive, but I think this may remain my favorite of Porpentine's work because the ending is so personal and accessible, in contrast with the filigreed bonework style of a lot of her other writing (gorgeous; likely to cut you if you handle it at all). The trick of characterizing the protagonist via reactions to an old-school game is also beautifully handled. But WTWLA is a close second, for me.

Solarium (Alan DeNiro) -- This is masterfully horrific because, alchemy and superhuman characters aside, the scary thing it describes is true: there were fanatics during the cold war who did bring us close to destruction repeatedly, and who used the threat of nuclear disaster as justification for unethical experiments. It's also a structurally inventive piece of choice-based fiction with very good prose.

Even Cowgirls Bleed (Christine Love) -- A story about the personal dysfunction that undermines a relationship, told through a choice-based story with a bit of an arcade mechanic tucked in: you "shoot at", and thus select, whatever links your mouse passes over, and at a certain point in the game this may become more difficult to control than you might wish. Compact, effective, and highly personal; and a rare example of IF in which the UI itself is a critical part of telling the story.

The Baron (Victor Gijsbers) -- a game for asking difficult questions, this stretches IF in the direction of philosophical thought experiment, but in a very disturbing way. The innovation of asking the player for a motive as well as an action now seems relatively common (see "reflective choice") but it was a novelty for the IF community at the time. But more than that, this game is — and remains — brave for being willing to ask questions about what we can forgive; about whether there are any categories of person whom we consider beyond rehabilitation; about what we owe to the most damaged and monstrous people. I don't know the answers to these questions and I still struggle with them.

Coloratura (Lynnea Glasser) -- Coloratura uses the possibilities of text to present a protagonist profoundly different from any human, and to play very effectively with the contrast between the alien's perceptions and our own. It's a gently puzzly piece of work, but its biggest draw is the exploration of this contrast, and of the difficulty even well-meaning creatures can have in communicating with one another.

Make It Good (Jon Ingold) -- Very difficult, but with superb good puzzle/story integration. Characters pay attention to every little thing you do, and everything they notice matters; solving the story requires thinking deeply about the NPCs and their motives and probable reactions, then manipulating them to get the results you want. They seem to have their own inner life, purposes, and goals, to a degree very rarely found in IF. It's not for nothing that the famously curmudgeonly Chris Crawford -- who basically considers almost all of classic interactive fiction to be a huge waste of time thanks to its insufficient focus on modeling NPC behavior -- grants Make It Good some space and respect in the latest edition of his book on interactive storytelling.

Worlds Apart (Suzanne Britton) -- Worlds Apart features one of the deepest and most detailed settings created for an IF game: the author has considered history, geography, ecology, the personal backstory of various characters, and much else besides, then implemented every detail of every room with astonishing devotion. The plot structure is a little less satisfying, and the story ends a bit inconclusively, but as a place to explore and spend time, WA offers a truly extraordinary experience. (From the same era, it's also worth pointing out Dangerous Curves, another piece that devotes really substantial effort to meticulous world modeling; but for me Curves was a bit underdirected and I was never able to finish it without a walkthrough.)

Anchorhead (Michael Gentry) -- Anchorhead is the pinnacle of middle-school parser IF: there are still plenty of puzzles, but the shape of the game is determined by its story, there's more interest in making setting cohesive and consistent, and NPCs get a more active and present role. For me it beats out its closest competition, Christminster, by having a gentler opening (Christminster's first puzzle is famously underclued, which has probably prevented many would-be players from enjoying it) and a stronger sense of atmosphere.

Slouching Towards Bedlam (Star Foster/Daniel Ravipinto) -- Play the game once to figure out what's going on. Then realize that there are several possible ways of dealing with the situation -- some available from the very first room -- and replay to explore them. Slouching's steampunk flavor seems a bit less fresh in 2015 than it did when it came out, and it has a few rough edges, but it blends together puzzle solving (what can I do? what is possible to do within this world model?) and moral decision-making (what should I do? what's the best outcome for my character and for the rest of the world?) with unusual success.

Invisible Parties (Sam Ashwell) -- the writing and the setting are incredible, and so is the relationship between the protagonist and the love interest. One of the things I love best about this piece is that, despite being a standard parser-style game, it pushes containers and supporters and inventory into near-irrelevance. Instead, NPCs are the most important thing in each room, and the key verbs (other than movement) are intellectual, social, or interpersonal: the ability to understand, to lead, to follow, to fit in.

80 Days (Meg Jayanth/inkle) -- Grand, beautiful, polished, with lots of lovely individual tales that weave together over replays, describing a world full of very different people with a wide variety of individual concerns. I especially like the recently added Arctic loop, and much of the India content. Aside from its other advantages, it is one of the most truly replayable pieces of IF out there.

maybe make some change (Aaron Reed) -- For many people, Blue Lacuna is the definitive Aaron Reed game and the obvious contender for this list. But as much as I admired the vast effort that went into BL, I also found its vision rather blurred; it was simultaneously trying to be deep story and Myst-like puzzle game, and it did so many simultaneous experiments that the design didn't quite hold together, despite many individually triumphant elements. The pacing often let me down. Aaron's other work is all over the map -- in a good way, in the sense that he is one of the most formally experimental authors currently working in the field. I seriously considered 18 Cadence here, which is poetic and lovely and tactile to play with and which I enjoyed a hell of a lot more. But maybe make some change does something wonderful with the parser: it takes on the idea that the verbs we know, the actions we've been taught, constrain us in both thought and deed. It's powerful, and so disturbing that I wasn't able to play through it the first time I encountered it.

Mentula Macanus: Apocolocyntosis (Adam Thornton) -- Irreverent, goofy, immensely self-aware, not to mention sprawly and epic in a way that was becoming uncommon when it came out. It is about the playful, rude, lively Dionysian impulse in life, and it demonstrates that concept in a playful, rude, and lively way. The result is likely to be startling to some players, and I still wince to remember a particular scene involving STD treatment. But it is also full of delight.

Treasures of a Slaver's Kingdom (S. John Ross) -- This is an extremely funny game, but what really earns its spot on this list is the design discipline. Though it looks like a big sprawling thing, it has actually been scoped very carefully; anything unnecessary to the player's experience is neatly stripped away, and everything that is necessary is robustly supported. S. John Ross has an absolutely clear vision for what he wants his project to do and to be. Add to this some first class feelies, and you have something extremely special.

Everybody Dies (Jim Munroe) -- Jim's characters are always a pleasure, and I especially enjoyed them here, in a tale of intersecting lives and intersecting deaths. It is also a superb demonstration of image dovetailing with text: Michael Cho's illustrations appear at critical moments in the story, when something mystical is happening that does not easily lend itself to explanation.

BONUS ROUND!: games that don't quite make it onto my best-of list, but which a) I remember as being pretty intriguing and b) rarely get mentioned around here these days. Inasmuch as this thread is about helping people find new stuff, maybe check out

Delusions (CE Forman) -- A difficult and deeply eerie piece with multiple levels of reality, as I recall, and one of the first pieces of post-Infocom IF I played, after Curses and Jigsaw. I have no idea how it would stack up to modern expectations in terms of player friendliness and implementation, but at the time I was really impressed with it, both because of its complexity and for its darkness of tone; I was used to relatively playful material and wasn't expecting this.

Kaged (Ian Finley) -- Dystopian setting, strong atmosphere, a bunch of multimedia features that at the time were totally cutting-edge. I'm not sure how well it stands up now, but I remember it being pretty persuasive at the time.

Piracy 2.0 (Sean Huxter) -- An IF Comp game from a few years back that suffered from a bit of bugginess, but has since had an upgrade. Its strength was a pleasingly flexible puzzle space and plot: from the initial space-piracy scenario, there were a number of different ways things could turn out depending on how clever you were at contriving solutions. People who like open-ended puzzly parser IF and a strong sense of freedom might be drawn to this one.

Nightfall (Eric Eve) -- Eric's work is always polished and often structurally ambitious; Nightfall stands out from some of the others because it provides a more directed and focused experience of an open world (vs. say Elysium Enigma where it's possible to miss a lot) and because its central relationship is more thoroughly dramatized. (I needed to revisit my old review to remind myself of the details of what I liked about it: ... nightfall/ .)

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 08, 2015 4:36 am 

Joined: Tue Jan 22, 2008 5:55 am
Posts: 1246
Location: The Netherlands
With still one week remaining, I'm happy to say that a few new lists have come in. Here's the first:
Photopia by Adam Cadre
Coloratura (parser version) by Lynnea Glasser
Blue Lacuna by Aaron Reed
Myriad by Porpentine
Float Point by Emily Short
I-0 by Adam Cadre
Endless, Nameless by Adam Cadre
Rogue of the Multiverse by CEJ Pacian
Zangband by Steven Fuerst et al
Pettigrew's Diary by Shards Software
Body Bargain, by Amanda Lange
Aayela, by Magnus Olsson
Swanglass, by Yoon Ha Lee
The Guardian, by Lutein Hawthorne
It, by Emily Boegheim
Phoenix's Landing: Destiny, by Carolyn VanEseltine
Following Me by Tia Orisney

I'm not sure Zangband really fits the "interactive fiction" moniker, but I don't currently feel that any boundary-drawing on my part is called for. (If big numbers of not-really-IF votes start coming in, that might change.)

And here is the second:
Counterfeit Monkey
For a Change
Walker & Silhouette
Lost Pig
Blue Lacuna
80 Days
A Mind Forever Voyaging
Ex Nihilo
Coffee: A Misunderstanding
The Edifice

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