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A timeline of some important games for authors

Recommendations by MathBrush

This is a timeline of some highly influential games that used innovative techniques or left a mark on future games. I have not included 2015 games yet because it's hard to know what mark they will leave on the future.

It leaves out games like Spellbreaker that were creative, but mainly refined pre-existing conventions.

This is a list that could definitely use some input for others, especially for influential web-based games.

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1. Adventure
by William Crowther and Donald Woods
(1976)
Average member rating: (78 ratings)

MathBrush says:

Written by one of the most prominent DARPA net scientists, this game established the two-word parser and the basic LOOK, GET, and DROP mechanism of adventure games. Its puzzle design involving active NPCs and multiple uses of objects was better than many later games.

2. Deadline
by Marc Blank
(1982)
Average member rating: (43 ratings)

MathBrush says:

The first Infocom detective game really ingrained its conversation system into interactive fiction, where conversation is conducted by asking about keywords.

3. Infidel
by Michael Berlyn
(1983)
Average member rating: (43 ratings)

MathBrush says:

This game subverted the expectations for the ending of an interactive fiction game in a way that was controversial at the time.

4. A Mind Forever Voyaging
by Steve Meretzky
(1985)
Average member rating: (83 ratings)

MathBrush says:

An early game that was almost puzzle less, relied almost entirely on exploration, and which had a strong political message.

5. Curses!
by Graham Nelson
(1993)
Average member rating: (97 ratings)

MathBrush says:

Curses! was designed to showcase the Inform programming language, and as such set off a horde of imitators. It had a notable system of books that provided information, and a rucksack that could be used to bypass inventory limits.

6. Pick Up The Phone Booth And Die, by Rob Noyes (1996)
Average member rating: (85 ratings)
MathBrush says:

An early minimalist game. It created a lot of discussion when it came out. While there had been earlier minimalist games like DeMause's Undo, this one stuck in public consciousness and had many imitators.

7. The Space Under the Window
by Andrew Plotkin
(1997)
Average member rating: (73 ratings)

MathBrush says:

Essentially hypertext fiction years before it became popular. Typing in keywords from a paragraph changes the paragraph to focus on that word.

8. I-0
by Anonymous
(1997)
Average member rating: (138 ratings)

MathBrush says:

Another Cadre game, this story had multiple disjoint branches, so that two players could have wildly different playthroughs. Also implemented genitalia in a non-AIF game, which spawned numerous unfortunate imitators.

9. Anchorhead
by Michael Gentry
(1998)
Average member rating: (277 ratings)

MathBrush says:

This game has excellent long form story designs slowly spooling out information without big dumps. Also had an innovative use of times splitting up gameplay over several days.

10. Photopia
by Adam Cadre
(1998)
Average member rating: (433 ratings)

MathBrush says:

Although story-focused games existed earlier, Photopia is credited with changing the focus of interactive fiction from puzzle-based games to story-based games, and also had an unusual use of non-linear storytelling.

11. Aisle
by Sam Barlow
(1999)
Average member rating: (238 ratings)

MathBrush says:

This game was the most popular and one of the first one-move games. It's also notable in that all of the moves tell essentially the same story, but with subtle or disturbing variations (so that the different stories contradict each other at times).

12. Varicella
by Adam Cadre
(1999)
Average member rating: (100 ratings)

MathBrush says:

A game with tons of timed-action NPCs that can be dealt with one by one. Set a new standard for NPC interaction, and had many imitators.

13. Galatea
by Emily Short
(2000)
Average member rating: (244 ratings)

MathBrush says:

Galatea was the most intricate conversation game up to its time, and rarely do games reach its level of NPC interaction even now. A single room game with strongly branching narrative.

14. Rameses
by Stephen Bond
(2000)
Average member rating: (97 ratings)

MathBrush says:

This game was shocking at the time for its almost complete lack of player agency. A self-loathing college student tries to motivate himself to break free but can't overcome his inhibitions.

15. Shade
by Andrew Plotkin
(2000)
Average member rating: (316 ratings)

MathBrush says:

2000 really was a big year for experimentation. Shade was not extremely well-received at its time of publication, but now is extremely well-regarded. It had unusually easy puzzles and an influential way of organizing things spatially (i.e. every area of the game is the same room, just with a different focus).

16. Shrapnel
by Adam Cadre
(2000)
Average member rating: (142 ratings)

MathBrush says:

Experimented with mature themes, non-linear storytelling and constraints on player actions.

17. Best of Three
by Emily Short
(2001)
Average member rating: (52 ratings)

MathBrush says:

A new conversation system combining menus and ask/tell.

18. City of Secrets
by Emily Short
(2003)
Average member rating: (82 ratings)

MathBrush says:

A game that combined large-scale groups of NPCs with intricate conversation systems. Before, most games had deep conversations with one person or shallow conversations with many. This game had both.

19. Slouching Towards Bedlam
by Star Foster and Daniel Ravipinto
(2003)
Average member rating: (162 ratings)

MathBrush says:

As Emily Short described in her blog, this game was innovative in having real moral choices that required large scale plans to execute, and where almost all reasonable courses of action were implemented.

20. Bronze
by Emily Short
(2006)
Average member rating: (196 ratings)

MathBrush says:

While other games had had tutorial modes (such as Dreamhold), Bronze had a system of tutorials and help for beginners that set a new standard for introductory IF.

21. De Baron
by Victor Gijsbers
(2006)
Average member rating: (131 ratings)

MathBrush says:

A plot-heavy, conversation-heavy game dealing with dark and sensitive issues. Innovative for its use of moral choice and for the way it treats the protagonist. People complained in following years that everyone in IFComp was trying to copy it.

22. Suveh Nux
by David Fisher
(2007)
Average member rating: (165 ratings)

MathBrush says:

Suveh Nux reinvigorated the old chestnut of one-room games, and also showed how IF could be used to teach unfamiliar languages effectively.

23. An Act of Murder
by Christopher Huang
(2007)
Average member rating: (67 ratings)

MathBrush says:

While not entirely successful, this game had a murder mystery with randomized villain and murder weapon, making it an early example of procedurally generated IF.

24. Blue Lacuna
by Aaron A. Reed
(2008)
Average member rating: (87 ratings)

MathBrush says:

The author was attempting to make the single largest interactive fiction game of all time, and has most likely succeeded. But this game is perhaps notable for Progue, one of the by far most detailed and well-implemented NPCs in any game ever.

25. Alabaster
by John Cater, Rob Dubbin, Eric Eve, Elizabeth Heller, Jayzee, Kazuki Mishima, Sarah Morayati, Mark Musante, Emily Short, Adam Thornton, Ziv Wities
(2009)
Average member rating: (95 ratings)

MathBrush says:

This game combined Short's continued experiments on conversations systems with a strongly branching narrative made possible by open authorship, with many people contributing to the story.

26. howling dogs
by Porpentine
(2012)
Average member rating: (84 ratings)

MathBrush says:

Porpentine's first mega hit basically kicked off the Twine revolution in the IF world (although Anna Anthropy had been active for some time earlier). This game essentially set the tone for future Twine games in the way Adventure and Zork established parser conventions.

27. Counterfeit Monkey
by Emily Short
(2012)
Average member rating: (85 ratings)

MathBrush says:

This game built upon previous conversation systems, again allowing in depth conversations with many NPCs and a new extension called Threaded Conversations.

28. my father's long, long legs
by michael lutz
(2013)
Average member rating: (72 ratings)

MathBrush says:

A twine game with a very effective use graphics and styling, and one of the few mainstream breakout hits of interactive fiction.


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