A Perhaps-Inadvisable Comp Idea

A tangent from an earlier thread raised the idea of SeedComp: people have only a few hours to make a SpeedIF game, then the highest rated ones are developed further, into longer entries for the full comp.

This sounds fun, but also seems like it could be disappointing to have your game knocked out in the first round and be out of the running. And without that weeding-out process, well…that’s getting pretty close to IntroComp, just with a second round of voting.

But consider: what if, instead of elimination, something else happened after the first round of voting?

What if players took over each others’ speed-IF projects, and had to turn them into more elaborate games?

I’m imagining something like:

  • First, people write intros that hint at some cool system, setting, or plot. Probably with a very limited amount of time to work on them: these are seeds, not full games.
  • The seeds are voted on in the usual comp style.
  • The authors then swap their games back and forth; perhaps the winner of the first round gets first choice of “seeds” for the second round, or perhaps there’s just mutual agreement.
  • Then, they’re given more time to turn these “seeds” into longer games (perhaps twice as long as the original seed, as a guideline)…
  • …and the longer games are voted on, in a second round.

There would certainly be some logistical issues to figure out. But it seems like a fun variant on the old IF Whispers projects, that might be worth a try if enough people are interested.

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I won’t say too much because I’ve currently got a cold so bad I can’t sleep and am therefore probably not able to string a coherent sentence together, but A) I like this and B) @pinkunz and I have already been talking in DMs about making this (or something like it) a thing. I think one of us was going to post something asking if people were interested in the idea but it seems you’ve got there first XD

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Exactly who would take over a game? Would any competitor get to pick any game to finish? Could you have multiple competitors working on their own version of a game?

Choice of game system would be all important - pick a popular system, and far more people will be able to finish your game than if you pick something obscure. Indeed, it might work best if it is specific to a system.

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Yeah, I’m always down for a good Exquisite Corpse.

I was wondering if it should be system-specific.

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So this is related to something that I talked with @pinkunz a bit about. My concern was that what makes a good/interesting short game is different from what makes a good/interesting long game, to which he replied that it might make more sense to not have the comp based around ‘finishing’ the seed game, but about making a whole different game based around something in the seed game.

Therefore if the larger game isn’t strictly finishing the small game, but instead expanding upon a specific element(s) from it, I don’t see any need for both games to be made in the same system, or even the same style (one could be parser based, the other choice based, for example). Personally I think that this potential for complete mixing and remixing would just add to the fun.

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OMG That’s taking the Exquisite Corpse idea to a whole new level!
Having different creators getting a different take on someone’s story and continuing it, that’s a neat concept.

I think it would work pretty well story wise, but I am still a bit concerned about the coding side. Different people not only use different programs (often stick to only one), and will code differently than someone using the same program. You might run into the problem of conflicting pieces of codes, making the next creator working on the seed to re-write the older part to make theirs work. (or having to re-write the whole thing anyway if you change system).
You’d probably want to have each new round of the comp be longer than the previous one, in that case.

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Yeah, this is a really cool idea, but you’d have to group it by type of game. There’s no way I could carry on a Twine game, and I doubt any choice-based author would learn I7 to carry on one of mine.

Although it would also be interesting to have people write short parser and choice games and then have someone from the other camp redo the game in the other format. Like an adaptation competition.

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I once had a related idea for a competition: TranscriptComp.
In phase one participants write a transcript of a game.
In phase two participants write a game that can produce one of the transcripts. (everybody could get the same transcript that was voted the best, or everybody could choose among the transcripts at will or get one randomly assigned…)
You’d have to put in some care so that the transcripts could work for both parser and choice games but it feels like it should be possible.

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The possibilities are endless, although you’d have to eliminate any EXAMINE commands from the transcript.

PUT MOUSE IN DEVICE

The device whirs and clicks and a disembodied voice booms, “Frazzle the potato!”

FRAZZLE POTATO

The force field prevents you from frazzling the potato.

SING ANTHEM

You belt out the national anthem and the force field flickers briefly.

Etc.

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Some of this idea isn’t too far off from WalkthroughComp - IFWiki which was great, and I would 100% support the idea of something like that happening.

I would be inclined to make this a Game Jam instead of a competition? Or do what Emily did and just have a single organizer-judge who just declares their favorite(s).

Here’s what I’d do:

  • Gather a group of organizers to help.
  • Let people (including organizers) participate in Phase I, Phase II, or both.
  • Phase I: One month. Contributors create game seeds, which can be anything: a design document, a poem, a story, a basic game, an I7 extension, whatever. After one month, all seeds are made public.
  • Phase II: Three months. Contributors publicly sign up to announce that they’re working on a given seed. Multiple people can sign up for the same seed. A single person can sign up for multiple seeds. No restriction on game length, but the target is set at ~15-30 minutes of gameplay. In the meantime, people are encouraged to write reviews of the seeds; organizers collectively commit to reviewing all of them.
  • Final: All games are released. Phase I awards are given out: most number of people that signed up for your seed, and most number of finished games from your seed. Reviews are again encouraged, with organizers collectively committing to reviewing all of them.
  • Final awards: each organizer picks a favorite, and special awards are invented for particular entries.
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That sounds amazing (and doable)!

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This is a game that is exactly that: a work built around a transcript that was part of the feelies for an Infocom game (Stationfall)

Spacestation - Details (ifdb.org)

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I like this concept. Would the participants to phase 2 need to have participated in phase 1 too?

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That was the original idea when @MiloM and I were discussing it via DM, but it’s evolved enough in discussion at this point, I’m unsure if the idea is really mine anymore, lol. I don’t know if there’s a firm answer to your question yet. What do you think?

With that said, I am happy the base idea resonated with the community, and would be happy to host/organize/assist/promote/participate/(or bug out, if asked) whichever incarnation of this seed survives to germination.

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Yes! Why not have an experimental inaugural comp in January/February, which is kind of a dead time for comps? It would probably be gloriously messy, but would help you figure out all the things not to do in the future!

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It’s almost as if that was the exact time of year we were discussing…

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Some thoughts:

  • @MiloM and I were concerned about the ethics of participating in a Comp we were also organizing, and we thought we might do something similar to SpringThing with its Back Garden. Declared non-competitive entrants would simply not partake in ranking/prizes, etc. That would avoid a conflict of interests for the organizers as well as create a safe space for sharing ideas or experimental adaptations.

  • As mentioned in the other thread, I don’t see too many of those seeds being literal continuations of the same game, not the most successful entries, that is. That a short story doesn’t always translate to a novel should be a common epiphany. While both contain the same seed, and might recycle some code (if they’re lucky) and major concepts, many will simply reframe the idea for a larger piece. This makes system incompatibilities part of the challenge, not an insurmountable problem. Consider round two as much of a reimaging and adaptation as it is also a continuation.

  • @MiloM and I discussed that the best time for trying to launch a new perennial Comp would be the obviously fairly dead period between IFComp/Ectocomp and SpringThing/AutumnalJumble. Seems like an obvious opportune spot in our calendars, probably after the holiday festivities had by many, maybe launching mid to late January?

  • This is a wise proposition and I think better captures the intent of the idea. While the seed can be a a short game segment, anything that captures the premise or spirit of the idea would be appropriate.

  • As for no restrictions on who can work what idea or how many can work together on the same idea, or how many ideas someone can work on simultaneously, I agree with a laissez-faire approach. However, I have only one suggestion. Restrict round two competitive entries to one (possibly three at most). An unlimited number of additional non-competitive Back Garden round two entries may be submitted. Consider it a Panks clause in the interest of fairness.

  • Not sure how much I like the idea of a single judge; I certainly wouldn’t want the pressure of arbitrarily deciding the relative merit of each competitive entry. I’d prefer traditional voting, but, as mentioned before, it appears this has escaped my creative control, so I’ll go with the flow.

  • The only other caveat I’d add to @lpsmith 's rundown is having the original inspiring seed listed next to each round two entry when opened for community playing/reviewing/voting. Being able to easily reference the inspiration when looking at the final product would be nice.

  • Edit-to-add: Oh! And assuming I have a say, I’d prefer to take @aaronius 's or IFComp’s approach, and host the whole thing on it’s own permanent home where previous entries, updates, rule evolutions, etc, live forever. As much as I like itch.io, and as well suited as it is for one-off and spontaneous jams/comps, the lack of control over things like voting (as ParserComp encountered) among other smaller things make it a less preferred option for something hoping to be an ongoing perennial comp.

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Maybe have a Judge Choice type of ribbon? Everyone can still vote too.

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That’s better. I am not Ryan Veeder or Emily Short; at best my picks would be gentle suggestions, like the staff picks set up in the vestibule of your town’s public library (unless you live in my hometown).

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Sounds like a fun idea and I had a lot of excitement with something similar with the first Adventure gamejam (the Adventuron Cavejam).

In that jam, there was only one seed - a template of a very primitive game involving a troll, an apple, and a cave with some treasure in it - and it also started from provided source code (the jam was Adventuron specific - which this comp certainly would not be).

There was so much interest in the cavejam because the first creative step was taken on behalf of the authors. Analysis paralysis begone.

Which is to say that this compo sounds like a lot of fun. I was planning another fixed seed jam in the future, but this competition is obviously a lot more flexible and should have wide reach.

You have to be clear though that anyone contributing a seed, is allowing non commercial use of the seed by the public in general.

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