Saucers of Mud

April 13, 2016

XYZZY Awards Discussion: Best Setting

This post is for discussion of the Best Setting Nominees for the 2015 XYZZY Awards. If you are posting spoilers for a game, please declare them at the beginning of your post!


  1. I wanted to throw out a couple of games here. To Spring Open was small but many people really enjoyed it and commented on the setting. Delphine’s House had three settings in one, and Summit had a whole world-system created that was fascinating.

    Comment by Mathbrush — April 19, 2016 @ 8:45 pm

  2. I enjoyed the settings of Midnight. Swordfight., To Burn in Memory, When the Land Goes Under the Water, Cape, and Chlorophyll. Those are the ones that are standing out in my memory, but I should probably take another pass through the list.

    I don’t actually know exactly what setting means to people. Is it worldbuilding, i.e. the implied world around the game locations themselves, or just evocative room descriptions/scenery? My above list works for both of these, and maybe it’s unlikely to have one without the other, but I feel like there’s still somewhat of a distinction.

    Comment by dougorleans — April 19, 2016 @ 10:30 pm

  3. Hollywood Visionary represents ’50’s red scare Hollywood very well.

    Comment by gleeb — April 20, 2016 @ 5:37 am

  4. I haven’t played Hollywood Visionary but that seems like a very good test case for Doug’s question–it seems to me like it should be eligible for Best Setting based on its milieu rather than anything like room descriptions or scenery. In fact I wouldn’t expect the setting of a ChoiceScript game to be primarily based on room descriptions and scenery (though To Burn In Memory, among others, shows that choice-based games can have rooms with evocative descriptions).

    Which reminds me, Summit had a pretty nice setting too–both the descriptions and other parts of the world-building. (That was last year, right?)

    Comment by matt w — April 20, 2016 @ 5:42 am

  5. Spoilers for To Spring Open, When The Land Goes Under The Water, and Midnight. Swordfight.

    For me best setting means two things: the setting itself as a fictional place, and the experience of moving around there. My picks for this are When The Land Goes Under the Water, To Spring Open, and Midnight. Swordfight. (I’m voting for the first two, but only because I’m voting M. S. for best game. It would also get my vote for best title, if there were such a category.)

    To Spring Open more for the first meaning, though there are some really cool touches to how you experience it, like the moving text on the subway part. The world depicted is striking and intriguing, with masks and strange customs and interesting locations. It’s very short, and is just remarkably efficient in depicting this dazzling setting.

    When The Land Goes Under The Water is all about setting, and I really like it. The map is gnarly and complex, and studded with all kinds of cool little world-buidling details like the “mirthstone”. It has a different focus than most parser IF, one which really highlights the setting.

    M.S. wins for me on both counts–the place is fascinating in itself, sort of a weird blend of Russian literature, postmodern fairy tale, Baron Munchausen, and pure Chandler Groovery, and the experience of moving around in it is very cool to. You have four directions, so it feels like you’re navigating a traditional parser IF in some ways, but, particularly with the Past and Future directions, what they mean really changes how the map feels in your mind. And that mapfeel, of holding a whole little world in my head, is maybe my favorite thing about parser IF. (Oh, and in my favorite scene, you can fly to moon.)

    Comment by Caleb Wilson — April 20, 2016 @ 1:29 pm

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