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Sidney Merk's News Archive
--=== Saturday, August 11th, 2007 ===--
I've meant to post news here for quite a while, but just haven't. Here's an
update for what I remember since the last one.
I did the IFComp T-Shirt
again last year. Orders have long since ended, but
the IFWiki page about it. Below this entry, I've posted the back art.
In award news, The Traveling Swordsman was
nominated in four of the ten
XYZZY Award categories
for games of 2006, earlier this year. Being nominated is like an award in
itself, and while TTS missed the win in three categories (Best Game, Best
Puzzles, and Best Individual PC), it won the award for
The awards page on the IFWiki is
nearly napped through the live awards presentation held on the
but made it just in time for the Best Story category (and the full
transcript, as a plain-text file, is
I posted the TTS source code last month. It
includes some documenting text files (with a developer's journal) that might
be of interest to other IF authors.
There was a discussion in the
(which became, oddly enough, an “us vs. them” debate) a year ago about
having an Interactive Fiction Community Forum. Two or three forums were
launched in a short period as a result, and I offered to host a
phpBB3-based board for Rioshin, one of
the discussion's participants. I'm an admin there too, and the message boards
are here under the
intfiction.org domain I already own.
This year's IFComp is coming fast, but
it's not too late to
sign up (the deadline
is September 1st) and enter a game (the deadline is September 29th). With
too many real-life conflicts this year, and after barely missing the
“top three” for two consecutive years, I'm sitting this one out.
--=== Friday, November 17th, 2006 ===--
I have added the TTS page here, with screenshots
and a link to the download itself. As with my prior Hugo games, it requires
a free interpreter to run.
I intended to finish the TTS page in
the review area soon. That's "intended" -- past tense. A very busy work
schedule, plus today's discussion in the interactive fiction games
has left me sapped. I'm disappointed that some players disliked parts of the
game, but just as pleased knowing that many judges did like it.
I'm very happy at how TTS turned out. For good or bad, it's exactly
the game I wanted it to be. Sure, I scrapped an idea for a couple alternate
endings along the way, but it wasn't only to save time. It was to focus on
the one ending that made the game right. Sooner or later, I'll post
an extended discussion, or link to the various recent newsgroup posts, or
even post my full (lengthy) design and development journal.
On a different note, I received
email about Breath Pirates early Tuesday morning,
but I only logged in and noticed it tonight. This really made my week.
I'm even a little ashamed at suggesting -- earlier today, in fact -- that
writing interactive fiction just might not be worth it. It really is, and
this is exactly why.
--=== Thursday, November 16th, 2006 ===--
The 2006 IFComp has ended. I'll
post more about this later (probably when I add a "My IF Games" page for my
entry, The Traveling Swordsman -- 4th place of 43). My reviews
are here, although I had time enough to play
only half of them this year.
--=== Monday, July 24th, 2006 ===--
The source code to Distress is now available.
You can download it here (requires the
free Hugo developer's kit from
source code is complete, and should compile without errors if you have
set up your development directory (with the Hugo library) correctly. If
you're a Hugo author and would like to see any aspect of the coding behind
this award winning
game, now you can.
--=== Tuesday, July 4th, 2006 ===--
Today, I'm releasing the Trading Punches update
(version 1.9) that I've been holding for months. It isn't much changed from
the last version, but it does (a) include "wider" illustrations to match the
style of future Convergence Saga games, (b) change the by-line to my real
name, and (c) run with the latest Hugo library built-in. I intend this to be
the last build of the game. It's time now to think seriously about Part 2.
--=== Wednesday, May 17th, 2006 ===--
When I (finally) updated the forum I use for
Prowler Productions, I added a
board specifically for Interactive Fiction. As of now, it has no posts. I
don't expect it to become very active, but it's up now for anything related
to my Interactive Fiction games, or even IF chatter in general. The forum is
--=== Monday, May 1st, 2006 ===--
I have posted my reviews of the
2006 Spring Thing.
You can read them here.
--=== Monday, March 13th, 2006 ===--
of the 2005
XYZZY Awards were announced live on the
IFMud yesterday. My game
Distress was up for six of the ten
won the award for
Vespers was the big winner with four
of 2005. I was disappointed that another of my favorite IF games of last year,
Chancellor, left empty-handed in five
As for the Slamdance awards,
it was A. A. Reed's
Whom the Telling Changed
that was chosen to represent Interactive Fiction last year. He compiled a
set of player transcripts -- very interesting to learn the kinds of obstacles
new IF players have, when trying out this kind of game for the first time.
--=== Thursday, December 15th, 2005 ===--
I heard back about my Slamdance
competition entry today, and Trading Punches was
not selected. Nor was Jason Devlin's Vespers,
and we're only aware of one other work of Interactive Fiction submitted. The
finalists are to be announced tomorrow.
I decided to re-render the chapter start scenes from
Trading Punches. I have cranked up the detail
settings in Bryce-5, and the resulting images are clearer than the originals.
I've also changed to 800x480 (was 640x480), which is the size of the chapter
start scenes I have designed for the second game in the Convergence Saga
series. I'm not planning a game update -- just a graphics resource update.
I got the go-ahead to design this year's
IFComp T-shirt, which I really enjoyed
doing. The shirts, available in five colors, have been on sale for the past
two weeks. Order-taking ends after tomorrow. The shirts are sold through
Feelies.org, and all orders
will be produced and shipped after selling ends.
--=== Wednesday, November 16th, 2005 ===--
And so it ends.
The official IFComp results
are in, and Distress came in 4th out of
the 36 entries.
Congrats to the top 3 games,
A New Life -- and also to all the
other competition authors. I highly recommend
Chancellor -- I may post a
walkthrough for that one soon; I'm sure this is why it wasn't in the top 3.
I intend to collect links to other reviews and post them here soon, too.
--=== Tuesday, November 15th, 2005 ===--
Judging is now over in the 11th Annual Interactive Fiction
Competition. That means we can post our
reviews, talk about the games, speculate, and anxiously await the official
results. I have posted my reviews here, and I
added a page for Distress here (it's lacking
some detail, to be supplied after the results are announced). I haven't
written a Distress wrap-up yet,
but I plan to.
Also, The Wall Street Journal Online posted the IFComp
today. It was
at SlashDot, but the resulting comments consist primarily of (a) silly
jokes about Zork, (b), silly jokes about sandwiches and Kansas,
(c) discussions about BBS games, BBGs, MUDs, and roguelikes, none of which
are really Interactive Fiction, (d) general criticism of text-based games,
(e) actual IF discussion, but with an obvious lack of reading the article,
and (f) off-topic banter. It's great to get exposure like this for
Interactive Fiction, but it's a shame a half-hour interview was reduced to a
couple sentences about making sandwiches.
--=== Saturday, October 29th, 2005 ===--
Good things are happening! First, the author of a recent
Lunatix review emailed me
to said review in QB Express #14. Second, Vauhini Vara, a technical reporter
for The Wall Street Journal Online,
is writing an article about some of the games and authors of this year's
IF Comp. Third, I have submitted
Trading Punches to the Slamdance
Guerrilla Gamemaker Competition.
One of the organizers has been anxious to include works of Interactive Fiction,
and this might just be artistic enough to make a good impression.
--=== Saturday, October 22nd, 2005 ===--
I have finally added a page for Miscellaneous
Reviews, as well as a news archive to roll
off the out-of-date posts. The sidebar image has been updated, too. I'm still
playing and reviewing all the other IF Comp
entries, but it has been slow-going. I'm about one-third of the way through,
and the competition is about half-way over.
--=== Monday, October 3rd, 2005 ===--
The 2005 Interactive Fiction Competition
is here again. Thirty-six contenders -- including my own -- are available for
download here. The
six-week judging period is an information black-out, so I can say no more
about my own game or any of the others. Like last year, though, I intend to
play every entry and write reviews to post on November 16th. Although public
discussion this soon goes against the rules, I welcome any and all private
feedback about my entry Distress
(written in Hugo). My email address can be found at the
competition's voting page, or at the bottom of the sidebar to the left of
Hmmm.... I need to move old entries to an archive soon...
--=== Thursday, June 30th, 2005 ===--
Long time no update!
Jay Goemmer has handed maintenance of the
IF Collaborators' List
to me. This is a page at the IF Wiki
for those interested in collaborating on Interactive Fiction projects. If
you have any interest in teaming up with others to create IF, check out
the list. You can contact collaborators already listed, or be added to the
list yourself. I'd like to keep that page updated and current, to make it
After many months of taking it easy, and a failed attempt to complete a game
for the 2005 Spring Thing
competition, I'm motivated again for more Interactive Fiction development.
I'm currently working on an entry for the 2005 Annual
Competition -- a graphic adventure, not based on any of my prior games.
I'm also considering The Oxygen Wars, which was to be a follow-up
to Breath Pirates (QuickBASIC, 1997). I have
also started design work for the second game in the Convergence Saga
series -- a prequel to Trading Punches. That's
on hold, while I complete my 2005 IF-Comp entry.
Soon, I will add my recent reviews (previous contributions to the
2004 Non-Comp Review Project
and SPAG) to this website. Time
permitting, I may also play and review a few more recent games. On a side
note, I have also revised the About Me page.
--=== Wednesday, December 15th, 2004 ===--
I have posted my reviews of the
The contest, conceived and hosted by Dave Bernazzani, challenged Inform
authors to create a great game that compiles to just 32k in size. Four of the
six entries are very good, and I highly recommend each. The fifth could be
recommended, if the author releases a much-improved version. You can see
each review here.
By request, I have released the source code
to Trading Punches. If you are a Hugo author and
would like to peek at the code behind the game, feel free to do so. However,
please don't go changing it around and releasing pirated versions of it.
It's for learning purposes only.
--=== Sunday, November 21st, 2004 ===--
I added a page for Mystic Force, a piece of
Interactive Fiction I wrote eleven years ago. It's the proverbial poster
child for everything inexperienced authors can do wrong in a game. I planned
to write a walkthrough, but these notes are the best
I could do. I have also fixed the "down" bug in chapter 2-2 of
Trading Punches. The version 1.8 update is
here, and the full
download (which includes the graphics and music) is
--=== Wednesday, November 17th, 2004 ===--
The results were announced yesterday, and
Trading Punches ranked
10th in the
competition. Having braced for much lower, I was excited to make the Top-10
(and it means the game will be listed on the official T-Shirt). The reviews
have been insightful. While some disliked the excessive (overdone) prose and
the mood music, others enjoyed both. In criticism, some themes were repeated
by many reviewers, and it's useful (even vital) feedback for future projects.
One killer bug was brought to light (do not attempt to go "D" (down)
when inside the buildings of Site Seven -- if you do, UNDO). I might release
a version 1.8 update to replace the
but I'm undecided. What needs to be done (adding to NPC conversations, making
the entire "cups" puzzle more intuitive and less tedious, revising the overuse
of noun-paired "hybrid" objects, etc) would change it beyond the original
scope of the competition entry. While that's a good thing, I also like the
idea that future players are using a more polished version of the competition
entry, instead of a game with different puzzles and different interactions.
Before voting ended, I wrote
this lengthy essay about my entry. Part
of it is just paranoid speculation, but I do address some concerns about the
plot. It may also shed light on the larger story -- what I was thinking, why
I wrote the game in the way I did, etc. Read it at your discretion, and keep
in mind that the results were still three weeks away.
--=== Monday, November 15th, 2004 ===--
The judging deadline
for the 2004 IF Competition is mere minutes away, so it's time to finally
upload the Sidney Merk homepage. I kind of have the inclination to write
more IF regardless of the outcome. I only hope the reviews for
Trading Punches offer constructive advice
(derogatory mocking isn't helpful, no matter how witty it might seem to the
reviewer). I admit, my expectations are low. The "spoilers" room of the
ifMUD hosted links to a few
early review sets, and my entry has met with something substantially less
than critical acclaim. Only one review seemed blatantly uninformed (the
one-liner seems to be based entirely upon the reviewer's frustration with
the first chapter, leading me to believe he summarized the entire game from
only a few minutes of play). The others -- informed, just not very positive.
(version 1.7) includes dozens of fixes/changes (see the
notes if you already played the competition
version -- otherwise don't peek, because it contains spoilers), I didn't add
anything to the ask/tell responses. I had planned to, but I decided to fix
what needed fixed, and let the lack of responses remain as-is. I didn't want
to change the game in a way that would turn it into something else, and I
didn't want to add further detail when much of what's already available may
be excessive. If you don't already have version 1.6 (the competition
version), download the
.ZIP of version 1.7 (which also includes the graphics and music files).
--=== Saturday, November 13th, 2004 ===--
The reviews are now ready to show, when the
judging ends. I have also added pages for Breath Pirates
and The Insanity Circle. I included source code
as an additional download (not previously available) for each. The
Trading Punches page is almost ready too, but it
won't be finished until the competition results are announced. Version 1.7 of
the game is almost ready for a post-comp release.
--=== Wednesday, November 10th, 2004 ===--
In about five days, the results of the
2004 Interactive Fiction Competition
will be announced. At first, I was pretty optimistic. Browsing early reviews
has dented the optimism, if not destroyed it entirely. The irony is, my
entry in 1999 was a DOS-based game that placed 12th out of 37 entries. Most
early reviews rank
closer to the bottom. Still, some very positive feedback has come my way via
email. The competition generally sees dozens of voters (sometimes more than
100 per game), so the results could be anything.
With the results so close now, and because I plan on posting my reviews of
the 2004 Competition Games
when it ends, I have created this website. I may also post my thoughts on my
own entry. I'm almost finished with an updated version, which includes dozens
of changes, fixes, and improvements. I have included built-in hints, and the
chapter titles now appear on the status bar (an important thing, when players
may not have realized that you're supposed to skip stones in the chapter
called "Skipping Stones" and serve drinks in the chapter called "Serving
Drinks"). Other changes are numerous, but I may post a link to a complete
list when the update is released. The contest version wasn't bad (although
the reviews may disagree), but the update will be more polished and playable.