The most important event in the IF
calendar, with the possible exception of the Xyzzy Awards
. The IFComp has, between the first in 1995 and the most recent (at the time of writing) in 2002, seen 278 entries. Who's to say how many of these would have been written or played without the competition, but for sure it has had a significant role in the IF resurgence the last few years has seen.
The competition started in 1995 by Kevin "Whizzard" Wilson as a way of encouraging the take-up of Graham Nelson's Inform IF language which had just been released, though TADS games were also allowed being ranked separately. That first comp saw 12 games entered, six Inform six TADS, including the Inform winner Andrew Plotkin's masterpiece A Change in the Weather. From '96 onwards, the separation according to language was dropped, and the competition saw steadily more entries (1996 - 26, 2001 - 51 (though only 38 in 2002 - however that may have been due to fewer incomplete or rushed attempts being entered)). Kevin relinquished his position as organiser to be replaced by first David Dyte then Stephen Granade (author of the classic Losing Your Grip and webmaster of www.brasslantern.org).
The rules of the competition are simple enough, but with two important clauses. First, the games are limited to two hours in length (or to be accurate, the judges are required to rate it based on two hours play). Whether this is a good rule is an annually debated question on raif. It has had the effect of shifting focus away from games of the scale of the commercial works of Infocom et al to smaller works, which gives room both to those who might not have the perserverence to write large-scale pieces and also to a new experimentalism which is quite the community's own, very different from anything Infocom ever did. Some of the most interesting and innovative IFs, Photopia, Exhibition, For a Change, Being Andrew Plotkin, My Angel, Shade, Tapestry, All Roads and Best of Three to name but a few, have been IFComp games - and most likely none would have been written in the days when the expectation was for more traditional and "full-sized" fare. On the other hand, many bemoan the relative lack of attention given to large-scale IFs necessarily released outside of the light given to the IFComp.
The second rule worth mentioning is that every entry must be freeware or public domain. This reflects one of the most beautiful aspects of the IF community, which is that with all this work being produced, of amazing quantity and quality, the question of money is rarely raised. No one expects to get paid for their work, and few question that state of affairs. Always, it's "I wanted to give something back". So the fact that this is now a rule of one of the most important IF institutions means the situation is even less likely to change in the future.
Well, that's enough general info. There was Big Long List here - the results of every IFComp ever - but I decided it was a bit pointless to reduplicate the information which can be found easily enough at its source on the IFComp website - www.ifcomp.org.
All entries can be downloaded for free from the interactive fiction archive - www.ifarchive.org.