This year's Interactive Fiction competition has now finished. My own game did better than I expected, and very possibly better than it really deserved.
Of the other games, I can recommend most of them. I think I'd suggest
(1st place) to somebody new to games of this sort: they're both very accessible
and fun to play. Birdland is so good that it has inspired some great
fan-made artwork. Brain Guzzlers has illustrations by the author which are excellent.
There are many other interesting games here. Too many to go into detail.
I particularly recommend
(2nd place) which was nothing like I expected, given the cover artwork.
In this game you get to rewrite the tragic personal history for an unusual
protagonist, and see the impact of doing so on her future. I played this
late at night, and then had trouble sleeping because I was still thinking
about it. It is a serious, thoughtful work.
There are some really good games lower down on the list too, such as
Spy Intrigue, a ridiculously amusing game, but presumably not to everyone's tastes as
it picked up some low ratings. For a classical-style text adventure, there
Pit of the Condemned: my only complaint was that it was too short, and I wished the author had
given the player more to do. Finally I'll mention
Baker of Shireton, which is based on a great idea, and is most definitely not about baking
bread. I feel that the players who gave it low ratings may have missed the
I enjoyed taking part and may do so again if I have time. It's a lot of
work. But I'd wanted to enter for many years. I wanted to write a game like
this since... well.. the 1980s I think, when I first played games like the
Time and Magik trilogy. With my dad's help I attempted to write games in the same style, but we
never got very far. We lacked game development tools such as
Inform. I now know that adventure game development tools did exist then, but with
no Internet, we had no way to find them, so we did everything from scratch
Modula-2, chosen (I think) as a good programming language for a beginner at that
time. Nothing got finished. But I learned much about writing code. The time
was not wasted.
The competition gave me a completion deadline, a good way to motivate work.
And once it was underway, the competition website provided access to transcripts
of game sessions, which really helped me to improve the game's ability to
understand what the player wanted to do. I looked through all of the transcripts
for commands that did not work, and if appropriate, I added support for
them to my game. Any future player trying the same things would get sensible
responses. So... all told, it was a good thing to do. It let me write something
that I'd always wanted to write, and then improve it.