The 2015 Annual Interactive Fiction Competition

Browsing the Games

Welcome to the 21st Annual Interactive Fiction Competition.

A complete summary of all this year’s competition entries, including each game’s cover art, blurb, and author information, is available on the website. We encourage you to visit this page to get a full overview of the directory you’ve downloaded.

If you’re reading this on or before November 15, 2015, then that page will contain all the links and information you need to join the IFComp as a judge – and we hope that you do! Judging the IFComp simply means playing and rating at least five entries by November 15. Anyone can rate these games, and more judges make a better comp. The page also includes a tool that shuffles up the list of entries to help you play them in a random (and therefore more impartial) order.

After that date, the above link will take you to IFComp 2015’s permanent results page. From there, you will still have the opportunity to rate and critique these games on the IFDB, which houses community-reviewed entries for all the IFComp games going all the way back to 1995 (as well as every other IF work of note ever written).

Playing The Games

IFComp authors create their games using any tools and techniques they wish to use. As a result, the games during a given comp year will involve a wide variety of file formats. The following short guide gives you, the IFComp player, a quick rundown of the most common formats and how to play them.

Most of these games will work on any modern computer, but some require additional software to run. You can identify the “flavor” of an IFComp game (and know what else you need to play it) by its main file’s extension, as described below.

Web games

File extension: .html

Nowadays the most common single format for IFComp entries is HTML, meant to run in most any modern web browser. Just locate and open the game’s .html file, and your browser of choice should take it from there. (If the game is made of many HTML files, look for one named index.html, unless a README file in that game’s folder directs you otherwise.)

You will probably need JavaScript enabled in your browser to let games work properly. (If you aren’t sure whether or not you have JavaScript enabled, then you probably do; it’s almost always on by default.)

Some web-based games work just fine offline, with everything you need to play in their respective download directories. Others have some or even all of their content hosted online, and require an internet connection to play.

Glulx and Z-Code games

File extensions: .gblorb, .zblorb, .ulx, .z5, .z8

There are two ways to play these games, which are created using the Inform IF authoring tool:

Note that games in this format are usually parser-based IF, in the mode of Infocom’s classic text adventures, the ones where you have to type in commands like GET LAMP and KILL TROLL WITH SWORD and ASK ZOE ABOUT QUANTUM PHYSICS and so on. Playing these games as intended requires knowledge of (and comfort with) parser conventions.

Some games contain some basic instructions if you e.g. type HELP as your first command. You can find links to parser primers and tutorial games on the website. You might also wish to look at the quick-reference postcard, written by Andrew Plotkin and designed by Lea Albaugh, included in the “Extras” directory in this bundle.

TADS games

File extensions: .gam, .t3

TADS is another popular system for creating parser IF. As with Inform, it offers its own variety of free, cross-platform interpreters you can use to load and play games created with it.

As TADS games are also usually parser-based, the above links and advice regarding parser-play also apply here.

Alan games

File extension: .a3c

Alan is another system for creating parser-based IF. Like TADS and Inform, playing its games requires the use of a separate interpreter program, available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Windows executables

File extension: .exe

Games with the file extension .exe are native Windows programs. If you’re running Windows, just run them like any other program.

Rating the games

If you’re playing these games on or before November 15, 2015 with the intent to rate them as a judge – well, first of all, excellent! We’re sincerely glad to have you help.

Please take a moment to read the rules for judges before digging in. You may also wish to read the FAQ and the judging guidelines. We ask especially that you keep in mind that your ratings must reflect only your experiences of the the first two hours of play (at most).

When you’re ready to vote, head on back to the online ballot and use the controls found there to enter your ratings before 11:59 PM Eastern time on November 15. You can revisit that page as often as you need to, right up until the deadline. So long as you submit ratings for at least five games, we will count (and very much appreciate) your contribution.

Discussing the games

Join the conversation about the competition and its entries in the IF forums. You can trade hints, share your thoughts about the games, and read other folks’ reviews.

Of course, we also encourage you to discuss the games on social media, blogs, or wherever else you’d like. If you have a website where you plan to write reviews, consider adding it to the Planet IF news aggregator so that more of your fellow interactive fiction fans can follow along!

As the competition progresses, we’ll post pertinent links and other news and updates to both the official IFComp twitter account and our own blog.

Finally, if you need to contact the organizer for any reason, feel free to email

A closing benediction

With 53 entries, this year marks the largest number of games the IFComp has seen since the sixth competition, held back in 2000. One is tempted to launch from here into a reverie about how much the both the competition and the whole concept of interactive fiction have changed in the fifteen years since then, but I’ll tell a different story instead.

In August of this year, I went to Boston GameLoop, a small, annual game-development conference I’ve attended since its inception in 2008. It’s a kind of “unconference”, where attendees decide the schedule on the fly. At the start, each person present declares two or three topics of interest to them, with the aim of gauging the room’s interest for session ideas, and sparking birds-of-a-feather conversations later.

Every year I’ve said “interactive fiction”, and invariably found myself one of only two or three stating that interest, with the others often people folks I already knew. This year, I decided I’d take a less jargony tack, and instead said “text games”.

It happened that I sat near the front of the room this year, so was one of the first to speak. At least a dozen people after me said “interactive fiction”. And then others pitched IF-related talk ideas, and some begat very interesting and well-attended sessions. (Carolyn VanEseltine wrote up one of them, a talk on narrative and puzzle design led by Naomi Hinchen.)

All just passing moments at a one-day local gathering, but I found it a powerful and unexpected indicator of interactive fiction’s explosive growth just in the past few years. An ever-widening array of low-cost creative technologies reaches an ever-broadening range of potential creators, and we today clearly begin to enjoy the results of this.

I see this evidenced in the IFComp, too. As with 2014’s entries, this year’s games cover formats new and classical, familiar and experimental, and with more of every kind than ever before. This is going to be a very good year, and I’m very glad you’re joining us for it.

Now, let’s go play some games.

Jason McIntosh, October 2015