IF Competition 2014

It’s comp time!

The Games of the 2014 IFComp

I have not yet played them or even looked at the titles. If you have, and you want to discuss them in spoilery ways… well, hmm. I’m new to Discourse. Is it better to create a separate thread for each one? Let’s give that a try.

I’ve played Zest and started a thread in the Spoilers section about it, and will be posting more as I go through more of the comp games. Feel free to start additional threads there for spoilery discussion of the others, or maybe use this thread for non-spoilery discussion.

Well, I think I’d like to say something non-spoilery, and forgive my frankness, but I feel I should bring it up. I hope I don’t offend anyway here who’s participated in the IFComp, past or present (or future!).

Why is it that far more games than you’d think allowable look like they’re written by people who never wrote IF before?

Ok, ok, it’s a loaded question, and I know the answer, really: because IFComp is THE place to showcase your new game, the place to make a splash, the one way to make sure your game will be played. It’s highly visible, and it’s made to encourage newcomers. The two-hour rule even ensures these newcomers will be able to come up with some quality stuff, because they don’t have to make a huge sprawling world. They can keep it small and still be praised and noted for a great game.

Also, there are veterans taking part too, occasionally.

And all of this makes for a beautiful, welcoming Comp that I wouldn’t have any other way, it’s the most visible IF event right now and the one that brings in the crowds, such as they are.

But… but as a result, the Comp that should, theoretically, showcase the best of the community ends up giving us some people who never really did it before and decided to start here. The bar for the Comp is, I think, pretty high, and a newcomer, or someone who’s not necessarily new but hasn’t made those many games, will probably take more flak than he would if he’d released his game outside the comp. Or in another comp, like Shufflecomp and Ectocomp and the like.

There are currently more quality games being released outside comps, or in these smaller comps. And again, that’s fine, and the IFComp should be just as welcoming as it is, and encourage people as much as it does.

But… I don’t know, Sigmund’s Quest is barely a demo, Hill 160 is by an author who doesn’t really have much of a clue and has a lot of ambition (I know him from Genesis Quest. I ragequit it, and I ragequit Hill too). Excelsior is dull, dull, dull. Arqon is unfinished and hardly gripping, though it’s refreshing to see a W&W game. And Yet It Moves gets really scary when it starts listing all the different vegetables and all the numbers of different items in the description, it made me quit because it was ominous of an author too inexperienced trying too hard (but I didn’t actually play past the completion of the first puzzle, so please give the game a try and don’t take my word for it).

Then we do have quality stuff, of course. Fifteen Minutes, and Enigma, and Creatures Such as We, and Harold Night. Games that are fun even when they’re not brilliant, and isn’t fun what we’re all about?

I just find it strange to see such wildly degree variants of quality in the Comp. I’ll say it again, I understand why this is, and I won’t have it any other way; but I always end up thinking “Why? Why is this in the Comp?”

Peace all.

Indeed. If a newcomer is going to be attracted by an event, chances are that event will be the IFComp.

Contrast this to, say, Photoshop contests. At any given time, there are several sites you can go to and enter contests. It’s easy to get a handle on how your skills stack up to the field, and if your entry turns out to be something you’re not proud of, few people will remember it; that contest will fade away in a couple days and you can try another one.

I wonder what would happen if there were an ongoing series of weekly/daily Speed-IFs.

I like that. Like SpeedIF, as you point out:

So many people started doing SpeedIFs before moving on to larger things. Well, we DO have a lot of comps currently, it’s just that they tend to be more… how shall I put it… let’s say that the mini-comps of the past were fast and furious; there’s so much organisation now (not necessarily a bad thing) that the whole thing gets to be grander, and a bigger responsability, than your average quick-and-dirty SpeedIF. Also, there’s been a trend of reviewing SpeedIF games that always sort of says “Well, you know, it’s SpeedIF, what do you expect?”, which is true, but demoralises anyone participating in one.

ShuffleComp was a very pleasant surprise, maybe it’s the new SpeedIF.

I don’t mind that the IFcomp showcases new authors and their work, or that the quality of the entries is so variable. What I do find disappointing, though, is that in decades past the IFcomp was the place to send your best work of any given year, but nowadays the “big names” seem to eschew the comp altogether. Perhaps others more involved in the community have an understanding of why this has changed – has the IFcomp lost some of the visibility or prestige that made it worth entering in the past? Are there objections about the format (2-hour maximum) or the judging rules? A reluctance to be numerically judged? Something else?

I would hazard a guess that when they were in the IFComp they weren’t as big a name as they are now, which brings us back to how good it is to welcome newcomers…

Also, being a big-profile competitor has risks. They might realistically have people vote for them just because they are who they are, or against them for that same reason. You might even have people vote their games down in antecipation of everyone else voting them up, to even up the scores.

I know this sounds like something none of us would ever do, but consider - would you be ready to judge a Zarf or Short or Cadre game very low?

If that is a concern the author could use a pseudonym with the true author revealed only after the Comp (as Zarf at least has done in the past).

I was going to add this to my previous post as an edit, but your speedy typing skills have prevented me!

Anyway, another thing is that they don’t need to enter the IFComp anymore. The only prize is recognition, and they already have that. Plus, they have their own projects - if Short had shelved Counterfeit Monkey or if Zarf were to pause Hadean Lands for the Comp, we’d all be very sad indeed!

The Comp also has some rules, notably the 2-hour rule, that might or might not be a good thing for the project they’re working on (CM, for instance, would run afoul of this rule).

Finally, I suppose there’s the concern of a major name overshadowing the smaller games. These people have proven to be unable to give us games we won’t gush over. It must be disheartening for a newcomer to pour his time and soul into his game only to see that the older guys, the ones who don’t really need the boost that IFComp gives, are hogging it all.

Given all these things, I have to say I admire their decision not to be in the Comp.

I’m still sad about the varying levels of quality, of course. Keep wishing people had other opportunities to start making games and mucking it all up and polishing it just right in smaller competitions.

Seems like I’m saying “bring back the SpeedIF”. Big words from a guy who never made a game and doesn’t expect to, so it’s not really my place, but it kinda looks like it did some good. I mean, name out of a hat, Admiral Jota did some fun and quirky SpeedIFs before Lost Pig…

There were two unusual things about the competition this year in my opinion:

  1. Choosing a winner (i.e. assessing my top scores, indicating who I think should win) was the easiest process I can remember in the several years I’ve been participating as a voter. Usually there are many titles that I have to consider very carefully in making my final scores. This time, the few top choices were fairly obvious right away to me.

  2. To perhaps echo the sentiment about novice authors: Looking backing through my records, there was never any other year where I assigned so many scores of “1.” I score very hard against technical problems (as opposed to aesthetic choices, game design, etc), and there were numerous entries that I could either not or only barely play due to incessant bugs and error messages. I’m not comfortable discussing particular titles myself until the competition is over, and I also see no personal reason to do so because I ignore the “updates during the competition” practice that has evolved over the past several years (I think this insults authors who had their act together right out of the gate), but really-- busted stuff that doesn’t work was a serious problem this year.

There are cash and other prizes.

Ah. I clearly don’t have much of a grasp on what I’m talking about, then.

The sort of update that IFComp seems to permit these days is not the sort of update that’ll make a leap in quality in a game, unless I misunderstood that as well. A quality game with some issues, to be fixed at a post-release time, would still come out as a quality game.

As a player (it’s the only thing I can be in this discussion where most other people are authors) I have to say I first came up against this playing the first Andromeda game. I played the very first version and left it at that. Then there were all those different updates. Having played through them now, I can say with certainty that those updates did not make an impact on the quality of the game overall; if I’d judged the game from when I’d played it, it’d have ranked about the same. Back then, I didn’t know that, and I honestly thought “Well, that’s just great. The version I played seems to have been prematurely released and I wasted my time on it when there are better versions available”. That was then, and I’m still not keen on the idea of updates mid-comp. But, it won’t affect the perceived quality of the game.

Anyway, to be fair, the updates you CAN do mid-comp are very limited, if by nothing else then by time. Bug-fixes of various importance, from cosmetic to critical. I’m fine with those updates, given all the caveats in the rules about judging a game re the updates and which version you played.

I do say that, and I’m aware of how silly it sounds, which is why my first post about this is quite uncertain…

… oh please don’t withdraw your post. Your frankness was much appreciated. I’d rather we were more open here.

Well, I’ll just finish my thought here - I just think it’d be better for everyone, including newcomers, to cut their teeth on something else rather than the IFComp. SpeedIFs came up in the conversation and I rather think they did a pretty swell job, and used them as examples. In any competition, one always hopes that the bottom bar will be pretty high - that the very worst game of them all will still be fun and enjoyable. This is probably utopic, but I do approach IFComp thinking that these are the games the authors put all of their love and effort into. Which is probably very true: I’m sure they do. In which case, some previous experience should help them make their games even better, surely.

Let me try to think up an analogy. I’m not going to audition for the Met, or for Covent Garden, or for La Scala, if I’m not able to fulfill certain requirements. I will certainly not be able to fulfill those requirements if I never sang in public before in my life - singing lessons don’t count in a situation like that. Without practical experience, I can’t hope to raise myself above the lowest rating. Regardless of my passion and my utter dedication. I’ll embarass myself and whoever’s watching me.

Yes, the IFComp is not an audition for an Opera house; it’s a friendly competition to encourage the growth of IF and get newcomers to share their magnum opus. That’s beautiful. I want that. I just think we ought to encourage them to do other things first. Surely that’ll benefit them as well.

I guess the Comp has historically served many roles, and it’s not clear which it serves still, or which we would like it to serve:

  1. The highest-visibility venue for publishing (short-form) IF.
  2. The most prestigious venue for publishing IF.
  3. The place to send your game to get the most feedback (constructive or otherwise).
  4. A launchpad for new authors wishing to enter the community.
  5. The place to point newcomers who want to browse the best the medium has to offer.

I personally would like to see it remain all five; I do want it to be the Met of IF, a celebration of some of the best work the year has to offer, the central place where everyone sends their Magna Opera, not just the newcomers (and if a brilliant piece of new IF gets overshadowed by a Short or a Zarf[*], I think that’s OK. There’s no shame in coming in second or third.)

Endosphere mentioned that many games this year were so defective he had to score them a ‘1.’ While the Comp has always attracted very bad games and half-finished demos, I do think that over the last few years the quality curve has become “flatter”: I’ve played about half of the games this year and have yet to award anything better than a 7. I used to look forward to the Comp as a time where I would be blown away by the quality of at least 2-3 of the entries; while I’ve played some decent entries so far I haven’t seen anything like Slouching Towards Bedlam or Vespers or Lost Pig or Violet, and whatever the cause – I assumed it was primarily the fact that established authors no longer submit to the Comp as often, but I could be mistaken – I think that’s a shame.

[*] Of course being a big name by no means guarantees winning the contest.

1 Like

Yes, that’s a fair point. Certainly I appreciate the time and effort the many entrants invested, for free, in their games this year.

Let’s take it as given that I don’t have the time or talent to write an excellent entry for IFComp '15. How would you suggest I can best encourage more authors to “do it the way I think [they] should be doing it…”? Better prize support? Outright commissioning a game from a known author? Some kind of crowdsourced funding for IF games (Hadean Lands has unfortunately not panned out exactly the way I’d hoped, but, it looks like it’ll be released this month!)? It’s a serious question.

I think this is the first comp that the Twine authors really felt encouraged to participate in. There is always going to be more Twine because of the short turnaround from concept to product, and Twines are often judged more like poetry; you can do something in all lower case and shake the screen and have words drip sparkles and fans of it love that. Twine is where you get the deep-angst personal diaries and the stuff that is more like beat poetry than intellectual narrative.

I think if there were half as many choice-based games, the quality curve might feel sharper. Then again, I’ve seen the most reviews for the choice-based shorter stuff…but that may also be a result of higher percentages of that available.

My post was written in a mid-rage from a full sequence of negativity that didn’t just include the post here, which is why I took it down. I suppose it’s futile to hope for encouraging constructive commentary from everyone the way Emily does it. I guess my main point is how are new authors supposed to receive a wall of feedback, except in a comp? It seems counterproductive to lament what seems to amount to “new authors are ruining the comp” with substandard and experimental material.

One would also hope the comp experience is what is actually teaching new authors (via trial by fire) what works and what they should aim for next time. That’s why you want all those quavery fifteen year olds to at least have the opportunity to audition for the Met, even if they don’t survive one round of cuts.

1 Like

I completely agree – nobody should be turned away from the Comp.

I’d be willing to contribute to the hosting or prize pool of a short, recurring, low-stakes competition. I’m thinking a bit longer than a SpeedIF, so more people have the chance to enter, but still short enough that time pressure will stop it from being taken too seriously - maybe a week?

1 Like

I don’t know how it is in Met auditions. I do know that for auditions here at the Portuguese Teatro Nacional de São Carlos, everyone does get lumped together. But I also know that in actual singing competitions there’s a triage first. Maybe it’s in person, maybe it’s just a video - but there’s a “weeding out” section which is private in which the quavery 15-yr-olds are removed from the equation, with a minimum of fuss.

I don’t think the IFComp should do that; I repeat that I like the fact that it is welcoming, and I’d like to keep it that way (I like it when evouga says

I just think that before the quavery 15-yr-olds think about auditioning for the Met, they should have at least a few competitions under their belt - and I’m not talking about proper regular singing somewhere, just the occasional comp - which are carefully chosen. Smaller, less visible competitions, where it’ll be ok to fail, indeed where they know they’re hardly going to pass the first stage, and they go for the experience, to learn how they react under pressure and in those circumstances, sometimes without their teacher to help them along. Those are the first steps, and I think IFComp authors would benefit from a similar experience. “Trial by fire” for the sake of “trial by fire” is too much like every singing participant of X-Factor, or American Idol, or Britan’s Got Talent, auditioning for the Met or Covent Garden.

Emily Short is a very special person. :slight_smile: And I never even met her. Some of us wish we could emulate her, but have to be content with doing the best we can. Such is life.

Tell you the truth, in my first assessment of the situation - in my first post - I didn’t even think about the Twine games. Haven’t played them yet. I do like it that they felt encouraged to participate, and I certainly won’t be judging Twine and Parser by the same yardstick. They’re too different. When I has sort of bemoaning the lack of quality, boo-hoo, woe is us for the times they are a-endin’, I was actually mostly looking at the parser games I’d played. :wink:

I wouldn’t go as far as “ruining”. As for your first question, what about smaller comps? :wink: IntroComp is one of the best things ever, I always though.

That’s what I meant by “cuts” as they’re called in auditions. Anyone can audition, but then a first “cut” is made, keeping only the people who prove legitimately able to handle the roles they are casting, or only the people tall enough or blond enough…whatever they are looking for.

Often several cuts are endured until the weeded-down selection of people actually have a serious audition with the actual casting agents, who don’t have time to see everyone. They do this on American Idol without mentioning it - they like to imply that the judges see all 6,000 people lined up outside, but they don’t. I bet they probably see at max 100-200 people a day, if even that many.

I’m not sure how you could do that with IF. I suppose you could do an “invitational” comp, and invite selected promising authors to enter their latest work, but you’d pretty much still get some really random entries since IF can take a lot of time, and depending on the lead time you gave them, that might be random.

You could try a comp where entries are adjudicated by a panel and accepted or rejected for entry in a public comp, but that’s going to seem exclusionary to a whole lot of people who get snubbed. And you’re still going to need to filter out the chaff, which sounds like the part you’re attempting to avoid by setting a high bar to even be allowed to enter.

Perhaps you can organize a pyramid-type comp, where there is an open first round, then the best half of the entries are allowed to be updated and then re-presented for another round of voting. Then the top three from those get a final vote after a polish. Still seems like a lot of work.

1 Like

That’s the thing, I’m not sure we’d want to, for all the reasons you go on to mention. I think it’d be enough if the newcomers weren’t really newcomers - if all the entrants had participated in smaller comps before, of their own accord, having been encouraged to. 'sall.

But hey, I’m taking for granted that the “problem” I talked about in my first post even exists, and so far no one happened to disagree. So I’m assuming other people feel that way and it really is an issue. For all I know it only exists in my head. And, in a possibly diffferent way, Endosphere’s.