Category Archives: Announcements

A Change of Venue?

For many years, the winners of the XYZZY Awards have been announced on ifMUD. In a community that mostly exists online, there’s immense value in bringing people together into the same virtual space to celebrate the best work being done in the field. Festivals need a sense of event, and the ceremony is a big part of what makes the XYZZYs fun.

But ifMUD has its problems as a venue. First and foremost, as a piece of tech it was already outdated and eccentric back when I first joined the community fifteen years ago. That fit right in with the heart of the parser-IF ethos – that an artistic community centred around an outmoded, economically unviable form could remain vibrant, innovative and productive. But it also means that, by modern expectations, its UI can be kind of a pain in the ass for many people to learn.

Second, ifMUD is as much – or more – a social community than it is an interactive fiction enthusiasts’ forum. Many of the ifMUD regulars don’t maintain much of an active interest in interactive fiction any more – they’re there to chat with their friends. Because it was built by its users, ifMUD has been steadily customised so that it fits their needs very well indeed, both in terms of technical affordances and in terms of culture. But this inevitably means that there are a lot of people whom it doesn’t suit at all (which isn’t a slam on ifMUD’s culture: it’d be true of any established social circle). This has always been the case; there was never a time when the whole IF world consisted of MUD regulars. But it’s a lot more true now.

Back in the day, the interactive fiction community was rec.*.int-fiction, and ifMUD was its social wing; it was a natural choice. But the growth and speciation of interactive fiction over the past five years mean that there really is no central IF community any more; there’s no truly neutral space.

So on the whole, using the MUD for the XYZZYs feels sort of like holding the school play in the auditorium at the local Elks. That’s fine, if you live in a town small enough that the Elks is the only place with a suitable auditorium, but it’s still a tiny bit awkward to shuffle through the wood panels and past the bar-room and underneath the regrettable taxidermy, while the old boys who just wanted to have a quiet whiskey with their buddies semi-ignore you. If there are better places to hold the ceremony, we should take a really good look at them.

So the question is: is there a better venue? What would a better venue look like?

As a start, here are the features that are non-negotiable:

  • Text-based. We’re a text game community. Text is the water we swim in.
  • Easy to use. There’s no sense in moving away from the MUD for ease-of-access reasons if the new platform isn’t a substantial interface improvement. (That means no IRC, for instance.) That probably means something that’s natively browser-based, for a start.
  • Free access. The XYZZYs don’t have a budget, and we certainly don’t want anyone to have to pay to attend.
  • Unlimited attendees – and still allows for clear communication when there are lots of people in the room. (In practice, I suspect we’ll always have substantially less than 100 attendees, but in principle I don’t want anybody to be turned away.)
  • Moderation tools. If someone shows up and acts like a jerk, we need to be able to issue warnings or show them the door.
  • Channels, or something like them. A way to distinguish the main action of the ceremony – talk from the presenters and the people accepting awards – from applause and conversation among the audience. (It’s no fun showing up to a party unless you can chat with the folks you meet there – but if everybody’s at maximum volume, it’s chaos.)
  • Some of these need to be private, so that the organisers and presenters can coordinate.

Things that would be nice, but that we can allow some wiggle-room on:

  • A simulated, customisable environment. Part of the fun of the ceremony is the fiction of a shared physical space.
  • No advertising. Ideally, it’d be something that could be set up on a personal server (perhaps the one ifMUD currently runs on, even), so that we retain ownership over our own space rather than camping out on the sufferance of some corporation’s cloud.
  • Transcripting: the ability to record the ceremony. Honestly, I don’t know how necessary this is; the past couple of years I’ve kept transcripts of the ceremony in case anybody asks for them, and nobody has. The role of the XYZZYs as a form of public record is served by the actual award categories, their finalists and winners: recording the ceremony is a footnote.
  • A way to pin certain information – in particular, a list of the winners as they’re read out, because otherwise latecomers ask about it every five minutes. In the past couple of years, I’ve mostly shifted this role over to the Twitter account, but something built-in would be nice too.

Is there anything else that needs to be on that list? Are there any extant tools or spaces that would obviously fit the bill?

2014 Awards results

The winners of the 2014 XYZZY Awards have been announced. Congratulations to all our winners, and many thanks to the many people who make the XYZZY Awards possible. I’ll be taking a short break before getting to work recruiting post-XYZZY analysis writers.

Without further ado, the results!

Best Game: 80 Days (inkle, Meg Jayanth)

Best Writing: With Those We Love Alive (Porpentine, Brenda Neotenomie)

Best Story: 80 Days (inkle, Meg Jayanth)

Best Setting: Hadean Lands (Andrew Plotkin)

Best Puzzles: Hadean Lands (Andrew Plotkin)

Best NPCs: Creatures Such As We (Lynnea Glasser)

Best Individual Puzzle: the sequence of time-travel in Fifteen Minutes (Ade McT)

Best Individual NPC: the Empress in With Those We Love Alive (Porpentine, Brenda Neotenomie)

Best Individual PC: the PC in the uncle who works for nintendo (michael lutz)

Best Implementation: Hadean Lands (Andrew Plotkin)

Best Use of Innovation: Hadean Lands (Andrew Plotkin)

Best Technological Development: Twine 2 and Inform 7 6L02 (tie)

Best Use of Multimedia: 80 Days (inkle, Meg Jayanth)

Awards ceremony this weekend

The winners of the 2014 XYZZY Awards will be announced in the usual ifMUD ceremony, held in the Grand Auditorium on April 26th at 12 noon US-Pacific / 3 PM US-Eastern / 8 PM UK. (The results will also be announced over Twitter: @XYZZYawards.) Please join us to celebrate the best IF of the past year.

To get to the Auditorium, go south, then east from the Long Hall. (The Long Hall is east of the Lounge.) The Auditorium doors don’t open until just before the ceremony.

You can vote through April 24. The XYZZYs use the same login system as the IF Comp, and the Comp site has changed around. Your IF Comp account will still work fine for voting, but if you want to make a new account you’ll have to register over at the IF Comp site.

You can also log in with an existing account, and then vote over here.

2014 XYZZY Awards finalists

First-round voting is complete; congratulations to all our finalists!

The XYZZYs use the same login system as the IF Comp, and the Comp site has changed around. Your IF Comp account will still work fine for voting, but if you want to make a new account you’ll have to register over at the IF Comp site.

You can also log in with an existing account, and then vote over here.

The finalists for the 2014 XYZZY Awards are:

Best Game

Best Writing

Best Story

Best Setting

Best Puzzles

Best NPCs

Best Individual Puzzle

  • Finding the treasure in More (Jason Dyer)
  • Sequence of time-travel in Fifteen Minutes (Ade McT)

Best Individual NPC

Best Individual PC

Best Implementation

Best Use of Innovation

Best Technological Development

Best Use of Multimedia

Some guidelines for voters to keep in mind:

  • Anyone may vote, and you can vote in both first and second rounds. One ballot per person.
  • Authors may not vote for their own work.
  • While we’re happy for you to talk up the XYZZYs, canvasing for votes is strongly discouraged, either for your own game or on behalf of others. It’s fine to talk about the XYZZYs – but if doing so results in a flood of voters all voting for the same game, those votes will be discounted.

Second-round voting will close on April 25th at 0:01 US-Pacific.

2014 XYZZY Awards, first-round voting open

The XYZZY Awards, honouring the best interactive fiction of 2014, are open for the first round of voting, whittling down hundreds of IF releases to a shortlist of 3-6 nominees in each category. Voting is open, so if you love interactive fiction, please consider taking part! (Your vote is especially important in the first round.)

Apologies for the slightly discombobulated login this year: the XYZZYs use the same login system as the IF Comp, and the Comp site has changed around. Your IF Comp account will still work fine for voting, but if you want to make a new account you’ll have to register over at the IF Comp site.

You can also log in with an existing account, and then vote over here.


Some guidelines for voters to keep in mind:

  • Anyone may vote, and you can vote in both first and second rounds. One ballot per person.
  • Authors may not vote for their own work.
  • While we’re happy for you to talk up the XYZZYs, canvasing for votes is strongly discouraged, either for your own game or on behalf of others. It’s fine to talk about the XYZZYs – but if doing so results in a flood of voters all voting for the same game, those votes will be discounted.

First-round voting closes April 5 at 0:01:00 US-Pacific.

Ineligible Games for 2014 Awards

We’re about done with compiling the list of eligible games for 2014. In line with previous years, and the interests of transparency, I’m also going to list the games which are listed on IFDB but were ineligible (and if I’ve done so in error, please let me know.)

In addition to an IFDB listing, a game needs to meet some minimal standards to be eligible for XYZZY voting:

Exists, in a form accessible to the general public. IFDB gets a certain number of entries from games which the author only plans to make, or which were only ever hosted in one place and are now gone. Neither are eligible. (It is often difficult, in practice, to distinguish one from the other.) A quick search is sometimes done if it seems likely, but we can’t exhaustively track down every game – so if you can do so, we’ll be happy to reinstate them.

This means that Everything you swallow will one day come up like a stone – released as ephemeral, but archived in various places – is eligible, but Ultimate Quest, a commercial work no longer available, is not. Entries ruled out for apparent non-existence include:

The Conversation I Can’t Have, Morgan Rille
Cuttings, nahuel denegri
Escaping a Nightmare, Wolly Wombat
Fire Safety Simulator, Luckyskull2
Normal Forest By Day, Dark Forest By Night Lepak, Vo, Lee, Thomack
Halloween, Tom Pod
He Grabbed a Hammer, Timothy Butcher
Hell’s Basement, Simon Leek, Peter Laskin
Hello, Nathan, TheSuperiorRealms
The Hunting Trip, whoshotjfk?
Into a mind of madness D.B.T.
La Source De Zig, Benjamin Roux
Lana’s Return, steter90
Landing in Nigeria, Nnamdi Christopher Iroaganachi
Match Made in Steel, aarthur9
Outbreak Day 2 : The journey begins, Andre Berthiaume
Postponing Destiny, Lindsey Gregor
Rhino Cyborgs, Rhino Cyborgs
The Sacred Staff of Deck Koji, ‘Dr. Al Gore’
Saturday Night, Eric Brasure
Second Destiny, Anonymous
Sir Gawain, Tasha McCartney
transgresion181288, luis sanchez
Ultimate Quest, Emily Short
Under a Mountain, niinik
Worst Day Ever, tynichole
You Can’t Go Out For A Cigarette In Space, Justin Hurst

Released as complete in applicable year. Each work only gets one shot at the awards, so we prefer to wait until they’re ready for it. This is an increasingly indefinite category, so we mostly rely on cues from the author for this. If an author describes the game with words like ‘alpha’, ‘beta’, ‘demo’, ‘unfinished’, ‘intro’, ‘test’, ‘under construction’ or the like, or if it’s an Introcomp release, we take the author’s word for it. This doesn’t apply to episodic works released as separate chapters.

Ports, updated versions, and re-releases are considered to already have been released, and are not eligible. Adaptations, remixes and translations are. (Again, this is something of a rule of thumb. Jim Aikin’s 2006 game Last Resort, considerably expanded and renamed Lydia’s Heart, was deemed eligible for the 2007 Awards.)

Bear Creek, Part 1, Wes Modes
Chalk Circles, Paul Jessup
The Night and Stars, Jufry Ananta
Scaffold 22, MoLoLu
Sigmund’s Quest, Gregor Holtz
Find the Gold: An Easy-To-Read Adventure, IFforEducation
SpirI7wrak, Otis T. Dog
Dark Unknown Planet, Mark Eaton, Barrie Eaton

Interactive fiction. This is a highly nebulous term for which we have not yet adopted a tidy standard, largely on the grounds that the communities we serve haven’t either; for now, we use best judgement, and apply sparingly – really only for hapless authors who have wandered into IFDB without any context, or for the eventuality that someone puts in a joke entry for Call of Duty. No games were rejected under this standard this year.

Best Supplemental Materials is now Best Use of Multimedia

Back in 2010, the XYZZYs changed up the awards roster, creating (among other things) the new category Best Supplemental Materials. Based on community feedback, the award was specifically crafted to focus on material outside the work proper – predominantly feelies and books.

There are some historical reasons for that focus, but these don’t seem as relevant to games being made now. In an age where IF is overwhelmingly distributed by download – which has been the case for over two decades – feelies are inevitably a little anachronistic. A really cool anachronism, to be sure – but it’s tough to justify as the centre of a category, or to expect that they’ll appear in a wealth of games each year.

As such, the award has always been a little bit uncomfortably apples-and-oranges. Nobody would really deny that Aaron Reed’s Creating Interactive Fiction with Inform 7 was deserving of the inaugral 2010 award – but at the same time, its competitors included a teaser image for the as-yet-unreleased Counterfeit Monkey – nice work, to be sure, but odd to weigh on the same scales. Supplemental Materials has had the lowest first-round voting of any category; I think this indicates that it’s confusing and doesn’t quite fit with what’s needed. Some voters have used it to vote for in-game art, which – as was the case with Best Use of Medium before it was split in two – suggests a need that wasn’t being clearly addressed. And text-entry always presents a problem about how specific or general a nomination should be.

So this year, we’re renaming the award Best Use of Multimedia and making it a drop-down choice rather than a text-entry one. (We’re conscious of the irony that this bold, forward-thinking word choice puts us into the bright new era of 1997.) The award covers all aspects of media used by a game, beyond straight text within the game itself: sound and graphics, presentation and fancy text effects, feelies, tie-in novels, whatever. This does exclude work in the IF sphere that wasn’t tied to a specific game – though if Creating Interactive Fiction with Inform 7 was released today, you could still justify it under Sand-dancer.

Stay tuned for the first round. (We are running behind a little this year, for which I apologise.)

How We Need to Fix Things

OK. I’ve had a run to burn off my fighting mood and a walk to get my brain working, and here’s where things are going.

When I started the Pseudo-Official XYZZY Reviews, a couple of years ago, it was strictly a side-project. It ended up on the Awards site, but it was off in a little corner and didn’t feel as if it was part of the main thing. It was my first year helping out with the Awards, and I didn’t want to rock the boat too hard. The Reviews were to a large degree an attempt to encourage the kind of IF writing that wanted to see more of; as far as recruitment goes, I just made public posts asking if people wanted to participate. I got a lot of responses and didn’t turn anyone away, even if their work didn’t fully meet the expectations I had for the project, because those were just my expectations, and who am I to make demands, right? While the results were decidedly mixed, nobody cared all that much, because it was all bonus.

The next year, things got changed around: instead of putting out a general call, I headhunted known-quality reviewers, preferably with category-specific expertise or interests. This worked way better, both in terms of the raw number of responses and in how consistently the reviewers were able to match the expectations I had for the event – which were still articulated as an informal list of rough principles. In a last-minute decision based on the realisation that doing it the old way was stupid, the reviews got adapted to blog format, moved to the front page of the site and rolled out slowly, rather than getting dumped en masse in one gigantic plain-HTML page.

This year… was mostly treated like last year again, apart from doing a bit more to promote it. That was an error, partly because ‘business as usual’ often tends to mean ‘let things slide’, and partly because the thing’s nature was changing even if I wasn’t.

The response to the last post has made it clear that a bunch of people who are not me have taken on some of those expectations. Which is great news (please! go and write similar things in other venues! I want your essay on representations of power in early Cadre!), but it means that now I have to take the job of fulfilling them more seriously. So, it’s probably time to drop the Pseudo part, acknowledge that this has become an established component of the Awards, and start treating it as such. What does that entail?

  • In the short term, I’ll be bringing on another writer or two to take a second pass at Individual Puzzles. Individual Puzzle is an inherently tough category to tackle. In an ideal world, 2+ reviewers per category serve as the safety-valve for when a reviewer reacts strongly against a work. In an imperfect one, where we will often be unable to ensure that level of coverage, we obviously need other mechanisms. This is a stopgap, not a long-term solution. (And it will, for reasons that I hope are clear, take a little while.)
  • We’ll be drafting a document laying out in detail the expectations for what the reviews should be, so that both the people writing and reading them are given a clear picture. We have some informal lists of goals and mission-statement-ish things right now, but they’re not really something you can work to. The final result will not satisfy everybody, but it will at least give us all a concrete point of reference.
  • The event will probably move to later in the year. Initially, the idea was to have the reviews form part of the same event, more or less, as the ceremony. That’s more fun, but it inevitably loads all the socially-hardest work of running the Awards into the same time-period, so it’s not really compatible with giving the Reviews the degree of attention they require.
  • I’ll be looking into a system of sub-editors, or peer review among writers. More eyes on a thing makes for better results. I don’t want my volunteers working alone in the dark, and alone I am not able to give them all the support that they should have.
  • A name change. The Pseudo bit is a caveat, basically, and if that doesn’t fly any more then it’s just deadweight. It’s been pointed out, too, that ‘reviews’ may suggest the wrong emphasis.

Let me be absolutely clear. I’m not blaming Lucian for this: he worked to the standards he was given, ran into some honest bad luck with his games, and ran into a deadline. Any failure here is mine, and I apologise for it.

Finally: my volunteers produce giant piles of quality work. They’re talented people with other commitments, who have agreed to do a challenging job with rewards that barely count as for exposure. If I’ve asked them to participate, that means I value their labour and trust their ability for the task. Please keep this in mind in your responses.

XYZZY Awards 2013 Results

The Awards are over for this year, and here are the winners!

(And if you missed the ceremony, a transcript is available.)

Best Game: Coloratura (Lynnea Glasser)

Best Writing: their angelical understanding (Porpentine)

Best Story: Solarium (Alan DeNiro)

Best Setting: Robin & Orchid (Ryan Veeder and Emily Boegheim)

Best Puzzles: Coloratura (Lynnea Glasser)

Best NPCs: Ollie Ollie Oxen Free (Carolyn VanEseltine)

Best Individual Puzzle: creating the meat monster in Coloratura (Lynnea Glasser)

Best Individual NPC: Captain Verdeterre in Captain Verdeterre’s Plunder (Ryan Veeder)

Best Individual PC: The Aqueosity in Coloratura (Lynnea Glasser)

Best Implementation: Trapped in Time (Simon Christiansen)

Best Use of Innovation: 18 Cadence (Aaron A. Reed)

Best Technological Development: Twine 1.4

Best Supplemental Materials: Multimedia – Dominique Pamplemousse (Deirdra Kiai)