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XYZZY Awards 2015 Results

The main event of the 2015 XYZZYs is complete for this year. And the winners are…

Best Game: Birdland (Brendan Patrick Hennessy)
Finalist: Brain Guzzlers from Beyond! (Steph Cherrywell)
Finalist: Hollywood Visionary (Aaron A. Reed)
Finalist: Midnight. Swordfight. (Chandler Groover)
Finalist: SPY INTRIGUE (furkle)

Best Writing: Birdland (Brendan Patrick Hennessy)
Finalist: Laid Off from the Synesthesia Factory (Katherine Morayati)
Finalist: Midnight. Swordfight. (Chandler Groover)
Finalist: SPY INTRIGUE (furkle)

Best Story: Birdland (Brendan Patrick Hennessy)
Finalist: Arcane Intern (Unpaid) (Astrid Dalmady)
Finalist: Cape (Bruno Dias)
Finalist: Map (Ade McT)

Best Setting: Sunless Sea (Failbetter Games)
Finalist: Beautiful Dreamer (S. Woodson)
Finalist: Chlorophyll (Steph Cherrywell)
Finalist: Neon Haze (Porpentine, Brenda Neotenomie)
Finalist: Sub Rosa (Joey Jones, Melvin Rangasamy)
Finalist: Summit (Phantom Williams)

Best Puzzles: Sub Rosa (Joey Jones, Melvin Rangasamy)
Finalist: Brain Guzzlers from Beyond! (Steph Cherrywell)
Finalist: Chlorophyll (Steph Cherrywell)
Finalist: Oppositely Opal (Buster Hudson)
Finalist: Scroll Thief (Daniel M. Stelzer)
Finalist: Toby’s Nose (Chandler Groover)

Best NPCs: Birdland (Brendan Patrick Hennessy)
Finalist: Brain Guzzlers from Beyond! (Steph Cherrywell)
Finalist: Hollywood Visionary (Aaron A. Reed)
Finalist: Midnight. Swordfight. (Chandler Groover)
Finalist: Nowhere Near Single (kaleidofish)

Best Individual Puzzle: Understanding how the RPS cannon works in Brain Guzzlers from Beyond! (Steph Cherrywell)
Finalist: Catching the fairy in Oppositely Opal (Buster Hudson)
Finalist: The Hard Puzzle in Hard Puzzle (Ade McT)
Finalist: Identifying the murderer in Toby’s Nose (Chandler Groover)
Finalist: The skull in Sub Rosa (Joey Jones, Melvin Rangasamy)

Best Individual NPC: Bell Park in Birdland (Brendan Patrick Hennessy)
Finalist: Dmitri in Midnight. Swordfight. (Chandler Groover)
Finalist: Hana in Hana Feels (Gavin Inglis)
Finalist: Winter Storm Draco in Winter Storm Draco (Ryan Veeder)

Best Individual PC: Bridget in Birdland (Brendan Patrick Hennessy)
Finalist: Martin Voigt in Darkiss! Wrath of the Vampire – Chapter 1: the Awakening (Marco Vallarino)
Finalist: Opal in Oppositely Opal (Buster Hudson)
Finalist: Toby in Toby’s Nose (Chandler Groover)

Best Implementation: Midnight. Swordfight. (Chandler Groover)
Finalist: Laid Off from the Synesthesia Factory (Katherine Morayati)

Best Use of Innovation: Laid Off from the Synesthesia Factory (Katherine Morayati)
Finalist: Aspel (Emily Short)
Finalist: Midnight. Swordfight. (Chandler Groover)
Finalist: SPY INTRIGUE (furkle)
Finalist: Sunless Sea (Failbetter Games)

Best Technological Development: Raconteur (Bruno Dias)

Best Use of Multimedia: Secret Agent Cinder (Emily Ryan)
Finalist: Sorcery! 3 (Steve Jackson, inkle)
Finalist: Summit (Phantom Williams)
Finalist: Sunless Sea (Failbetter Games)
Finalist: We Know the Devil (Aevee Bee)

Further Reading 2015

First-round XYZZY voting is very widely-distributed: in many categories, the votes are spread across forty or so different games, and which ones end up earning a finalist nomination is often a matter of just a vote or two. Watching the votes come in, it can be really sad to see a game that’s a competitor in several categories, but ends up barely missing out on all of them.

So, for the first time, here’s the Further Reading list, consisting of games which almost earned at least one finalist nomination, but barely missed out – the tier of games immediately beneath the finalists in each category. The category (or categories) in which this happened aren’t listed.

This shouldn’t be construed as a new tier of awards, a participation ribbon or anything of the sort; rather, it’s a footnote acknowledging that the year’s worthy or interesting IF does not begin and end at the XYZZY finalist list. Keeping all that in mind: the games.

ANDROMEDA 1983 (Marco Innocenti)
The Baker of Shireton (Hanon Ondricek)
Below (Chris Gardiner)
Beneath Floes (Kevin Snow, Pinnguaq)
Emily is Away (Kyle Seeley)
Ether (MathBrush)
False Mavis (Ted Casaubon)
Final Exam (Jack Whitham)
Feu du Joie (A. Johanna DeNiro)
The Island of Doctor Wooby (Ryan Veeder)
Scarlet Sails (Felicity Banks)
Six Gray Rats Crawl Up The Pillow (Caleb Wilson)
A Trial (B Minus Seven)
To Burn In Memory (Orihaus)
When The Land Goes Under the Water (Bruno Dias)

Xyzzymposium 2014: Aaron A. Reed on Best Use of Innovation

Aaron A. Reed has been attempting to be innovative with his interactive fiction for more than a decade, with occasional successes: his IF game Blue Lacuna has been widely admired by the community, and his IF-like-things 18 Cadence and Prom Week have been nominated for awards at IndieCade and IGF. He is the current organizer of the annual Spring Thing Festival of Interactive Fiction. His latest game The Ice-Bound Concordance merges explorable text, a complex NPC, and a printed art book driven by augmented reality.

The Best Use of Innovation nominees for 2014 were AlethiCorp, An Earth Turning Slowly, Hadean Lands and With Those We Love Alive. Continue reading

Xyzzymposium 2014: Caleb Wilson on Best Setting

Caleb Wilson has written interactive fiction such as Lime ErgotStarry Seeksorrow, and Six Gray Rats Crawl Up The Pillow, and has published non-­interactive fiction in Weird Tales, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and other journals. He is currently working on a project for Choice of Games about an 18th century musical virtuoso.

The nominees for Best Setting were  80 DaysHadean Lands, Invisible Partiesand With Those We Love Alive.

Setting is one of my favorite things about IF. It has two meanings to me.

First, it’s the world where the fiction takes place. The four nominees for Best Setting all take place in interesting worlds, so I’ll write a bit about that.

But secondly, and this is what distinguishes a lot of IF from static fiction, setting is the world model: the nature of this created place you can roam around, comb over, backtrack through, and explore. Even without much of a narrative at all, you can still enjoy poking around a well-made world, whether it’s built of a grid of connected rooms, or links, or routes on a spinnable globe.

A simple definition of IF is fiction that includes mechanics: rules that determine how you experience the story. Taken this way, the world model of an IF is a big part of its mechanics: how the setting is laid out and what you can do there, what it feels like to navigate the world, and how this affects the narrative or gameplay. In general games are at their strongest when their mechanic matches their theme: I find that these four games all match mechanics to theme in interesting ways.

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Awards Ceremony 2015

The XYZZY Awards ceremony for 2015 will be held on the ifMUD on Saturday, May 28, at 8 AM Honolulu time – or, should you inhabit a slightly more populous slice of the planet, 11 AM US-Pacific, 2 PM US-Eastern, 7 PM UK. We hope you can join us as we announce the winners.

As promised, I’ve been looking into possible alternatives to ifMUD; in that process, it has become clear that running the ceremony smoothly takes a pretty specialised setup, one which is very difficult to replicate in any kind of plug-and-play chatroom. At this point, I’m not confident about running a ceremony successfully from any of the alternative platforms I’ve looked at, and I’d rather not delay the Awards any more. I’m still very conscious that ifMUD is a difficult environment for anybody who doesn’t frequent it regularly, and I’m hoping to have a viable alternative in place by next year – even if that means recruiting a volunteer willing to build a custom platform. In the meantime, we’ll be producing a ceremony-specific guide to navigating the MUD – we don’t pretend that this is a complete solution, but we hope that it’ll help for the time being.

Voting is closed and will remain so through this week.

2015 XYZZY Awards: final round

The finalist games of 2015 are out. Congratulations, all!

Voting in the second round is open now, and will remain so through May 14. (Edit: extended to the 20th.) Go, vote!

Best Game
Birdland (Brendan Patrick Hennessy)
Brain Guzzlers from Beyond! (Steph Cherrywell)
Hollywood Visionary (Aaron A. Reed)
Midnight. Swordfight. (Chandler Groover)
SPY INTRIGUE (furkle)

Best Writing
Birdland (Brendan Patrick Hennessy)
Laid Off from the Synesthesia Factory (Katherine Morayati)
Midnight. Swordfight. (Chandler Groover)
SPY INTRIGUE (furkle)

Best Story
Arcane Intern (Unpaid) (Astrid Dalmady)
Birdland (Brendan Patrick Hennessy)
Cape (Bruno Dias)
Map (Ade McT)

Best Setting
Beautiful Dreamer (S. Woodson)
Chlorophyll (Steph Cherrywell)
Neon Haze (Porpentine, Brenda Neotenomie)
Sub Rosa (Joey Jones, Melvin Rangasamy)
Summit (Phantom Williams)
Sunless Sea (Failbetter Games)

Best Puzzles
Brain Guzzlers from Beyond! (Steph Cherrywell)
Chlorophyll (Steph Cherrywell)
Oppositely Opal (Buster Hudson)
Scroll Thief (Daniel M. Stelzer)
Sub Rosa (Joey Jones, Melvin Rangasamy)
Toby’s Nose (Chandler Groover)

Best NPCs
Birdland (Brendan Patrick Hennessy)
Brain Guzzlers from Beyond! (Steph Cherrywell)
Hollywood Visionary (Aaron A. Reed)
Midnight. Swordfight. (Chandler Groover)
Nowhere Near Single (kaleidofish)

Best Individual Puzzle
Catching the fairy in Oppositely Opal (Buster Hudson)
The Hard Puzzle in Hard Puzzle (Ade McT)
Identifying the murderer in Toby’s Nose (Chandler Groover)
The skull in Sub Rosa (Joey Jones, Melvin Rangasamy)
Understanding how the RPS cannon works in Brain Guzzlers from Beyond! (Steph Cherrywell)

Best Individual NPC
Bell Park in Birdland (Brendan Patrick Hennessy)
Dmitri in Midnight. Swordfight. (Chandler Groover)
Hana in Hana Feels (Gavin Inglis)
Winter Storm Draco in Winter Storm Draco (Ryan Veeder)

Best Individual PC
Bridget in Birdland (Brendan Patrick Hennessy)
Martin Voigt in Darkiss! Wrath of the Vampire – Chapter 1: the Awakening (Marco Vallarino)
Opal in Oppositely Opal (Buster Hudson)
Toby in Toby’s Nose (Chandler Groover)

Best Implementation
Laid Off from the Synesthesia Factory (Katherine Morayati)
Midnight. Swordfight. (Chandler Groover)

Best Use of Innovation
Aspel (Emily Short)
Laid Off from the Synesthesia Factory (Katherine Morayati)
Midnight. Swordfight. (Chandler Groover)
SPY INTRIGUE (furkle)
Sunless Sea (Failbetter Games)

Best Technological Development
Raconteur

Best Use of Multimedia
Secret Agent Cinder (Emily Ryan)
Sorcery! 3 (Steve Jackson, inkle)
Summit (Phantom Williams)
Sunless Sea (Failbetter Games)
We Know the Devil (Aevee Bee)

Xyzzymposium: Yoon Ha Lee on Best Writing 2014

Yoon Ha Lee is the author of the IF The Moonlit Tower, which placed 4th in IF Comp 2002 and won the 2002 XYZZY Award for Best Writing. He also authored the StoryNexus game Winterstrike for Failbetter Games. His short story collection Conservation of Shadows came out from Prime Books in 2013, and his fiction has appeared in Tor.com, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Clarkesworld, Lightspeed Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and other venues. His space opera novel Ninefox Gambit is forthcoming from Solaris Books in June 2016.

The Best Writing nominees for 2014 were Eidolon and With Those We Love Alive.

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Xyzzymposium 2014: Joey Jones on Best Implementation

Joey Jones is a writer of text games including Andromeda Dreaming and Danse Nocturne. Co-author of the weird-fiction puzzler Sub Rosa in IF Comp 2015, he is currently working on a long-form ChoiceScript game set in the 18th century underworld.

The Best Implementation finalists were Hunger Daemon, With Those We Love Alive and Hadean Lands.

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Xyzzymposium 2014: Gabriel Murray on Best Story

The Xyzzymposium, formerly the Pseudo-Official XYZZY Reviews, is a series examining the shortlist-nominated games of the previous XYZZY Awards, tackling nominees in terms of their category. A lot of the critical writing in the IF world comes in the forms of general reviews; that’s great, but we wanted to see more in-depth writing that considered games through specific foci.

The XYZZYs have no cash prizes or shiny trophies, no red-carpet parties; all we really offer is the respect of your peers, and a slightly more prominent mark in the history of the medium. Both of these become a little more concrete if they’re combined with in-depth critical attention. The Xyzzymposium isn’t intended to be a triumpal march; we’re not here to lavish praise on anointed champions. The purpose of the Xyzzymposium is to show that we’re taking a work seriously enough to wrestle with it.

This year, we’re rolling out the 2014 Xyzzymposium to coincide with first-round voting for the 2015 XYZZYs. We hope you enjoy the articles – and if it helps you think about the sort of thing you want to see in this year’s nominees, so much the better.

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