Opus Ignored: Big games that didn't take off

Recommendations by MathBrush

It happens over and over: an author spends hundreds of hours on a game, often setting up a commercial company, and then releases it to almost total silence.

This list contains such games, as well as other big games where the author was disappointed by the response or received little attention.

Not all blockbusters share this fate. Mulldoon Legacy, Hadean Lands, Worlds Apart, Blue Lacuna etc. received a great deal of attention.

But anyone considering selling a parser game would do well to look through this list and consider what has gone before.

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1. Once and Future
by G. Kevin Wilson
Average member rating: (12 ratings)

MathBrush says:

Five years of development; the cornerstone of a new commercial interactive fiction company (Cascade Mountain Publishing). The sales were far too low, and the company folded. Now the game is freeware, but still undiscussed.

2. Future Boy!
by Kent Tessman, Derek Lo, Dan Langan, and Nate Laguzza
Average member rating: (8 ratings)

MathBrush says:

Voice acting, extensive use of images, big game written in Hugo. This one never had sales data released, and the author is said to have received a small but steady income from it, but the company around it is no longer publishing.

3. The Shadow in the Cathedral
by Ian Finley and Jon Ingold
Average member rating: (30 ratings)

MathBrush says:

Textfyre had two big products, including this one. A lot of content, light, linear gameplay, and two heavyweight IF authors (plus another for the other game) weren't enough to keep it afloat. Game is free now.

4. Finding Martin
by G.K. Wennstrom
Average member rating: (10 ratings)

MathBrush says:

This may very well be the longest game I've ever played in terms of expected gameplay length. As one reviewer said, it has a pocket watch which is more complicated than many full games. It took over a year to get a single review.

5. Lydia's Heart
by Jim Aikin
Average member rating: (30 ratings)

MathBrush says:

First released as Last Resort, then revamped into this version, this game is another in the 'ultra-big mega puzzle fests) (somewhere longer than Mulldoon Legacy and shorter than Finding Martin). The author billed it as one of the first real story-telling attempts in IF, of quality similar to published novellas. It has received little attention.

6. Scroll Thief
by Daniel M. Stelzer
Average member rating: (13 ratings)

MathBrush says:

A rare finished Introcomp game, and the author's first effort. A fairly large, polished fantasy game, which one reviewer called 'dizzingly wonderful'. Only has 7 ratings on IFDB after two years.

7. Worldsmith
by Ade McT
Average member rating: (30 ratings)

MathBrush says:

A very, very big parser game, with ambitious use of video, sounds, hyperlinks and images. This one got more attention after being released for (essentially) free, a strategy which would probably have helped some other games on this list.

8. Inside Woman, by Andy Phillips (2009)
Average member rating: (16 ratings)
MathBrush says:

Phillips' best (and longest) game, from an author known for making monstrous games. Released a decade after their other games, with little fanfare.

9. Speculative Fiction
by Diane Christoforo and Thomas Mack
Average member rating: (13 ratings)

MathBrush says:

Another finished Introcomp game. Picked up two XYZZY nominations, but only has 8 ratings after 5 years on IFDB.

10. The Windhall Chronicles, Volume 1: The Path to Fortune, by Jeff Cassidy and C. E. Forman (1995)
Average member rating: (4 ratings)
MathBrush says:

The only game on the list I haven't tried. Apparently Forman (author of Delusions and the first MST3000 game) was very disappointed by the reception of this large RPG-ish game.

11. Endless, Nameless
by Adam Cadre
Average member rating: (53 ratings)

MathBrush says:

By any normal metrics, this game is actually fairly well received. However, the first game in 10 years and the largest) by the author of Photopia, Varicella, and 9:05 could be expected to generate more interest. Cadre himself was disappointed. This is one of my favorite games of all time, though I'm absolutely sure that the annoying dart grinding contributed to its lack of popularity (not every interpreter has a record/replay feature).

12. Escape from the Crazy Place
by J. J. Guest, Loz Etheridge and friends
Average member rating: (11 ratings)

MathBrush says:

A branching CYOA game decades in the making by a well-known comedy author, released in 2010 and recently updated. HS only received one rating a year since its release.

13. Cygnet Committee
by P.B. Parjeter
Average member rating: (6 ratings)

MathBrush says:

A big game with graphics, video clips from a silent Joan of Arc movie, and voice acting.

14. Vacation Gone Awry, by Johan Berntsson, Fredrik Ramsberg, and Staffan Friberg (1988)
MathBrush says:

From an author: "We started working on the game in 1987, and I think we sent it to a reviewer in 1987. The first public release (re-worked, de-mazed and re-platformed) was in 2001."

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