The 2016 Annual Interactive Fiction Competition

Browsing the Games

Welcome to the 22nd 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, 2016, 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 2016’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:

Special note for Mac users this year: The most recent version of macOS, Sierra, has demonstrated incompatibilities with several older interpreters, including Zoom, Spatterlight, and Gargoyle. If you have trouble running these programs, consider Lectrote, a new interpreter by Andrew Plotkin. You can also try playing the games in a web browser, as described above.

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.

Quest games

File extension: .quest

Quest is another popular IF system, albeit one whose downloadable titles work only on Windows. You can download its interpreter for free from its website. Quest games are often (but not always) parser-based, as well.

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, 2016 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 commencement benediction

This year marks the first that IFComp operates under the auspices of the Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation (IFTF), a new, charitable non-profit corporation dedicated to supporting the technologies and services that enable IF creation and play. Assuming stewardship of IFComp was IFTF’s very first active program, and as such the competition now runs on servers paid for by the IF-loving public, and for this I feel sincere gratitude.

IFTF stands poised to do a lot more great work in the coming months and years, and I invite you to visit its website to learn how you can help its ongoing mission:

IFComp benefits from new volunteers this year. Line Hollis, IFComp’s first entry-curation volunteer, reviewed all the entries as they arrived for rules adherence and such, a task more involved than ever due to the record-breaking number of games submitted. On the other side of the deadline, Carolyn VanEseltine brings back the role of vote-counter, making sure that the process of casting ballots and computing scores stays smooth and level throughout this year’s judging period.

Joe Johnston contributed the new IFComp code that makes Carolyn’s work possible. I should mention that those of a certain technical bent are welcome to browse IFComp’s code repository on GitHub. We always welcome source-level contributions of every sort, from bug reports to pull requests.

It may not have been his intention when he first released it months ago, but Andrew Plotkin’s new IF intepreter, Lectrote, gives Mac users a way to play downloaded Glulx games and more just as a new macOS update removes support for a swath of older interpeters. This would have been a more painful competition for us Mac people without his accidental assistance!

And, of course, dozens of interactive fiction creators, both familiar friends and newcomers, have worked untold hours to bring us 58 brand new works of IF. Let’s not keep them waiting any longer! Let’s go play some games.

Jason McIntosh, October 2016