Archiving of Competitions,, and Third Party Sites

@mathbrush made a post about Spring Thing not allowing off-site hosted games for this year because those can’t be archived, which I support!

Here’s that post: Anybody know how to upload an html game to for Spring Thing? - #4 by mathbrush

Everyone on here is right. Uploading stuff to itch is fine and a great way to host your game, but this year I’ll only be accepting games that can be archived completely or almost entirely. In the recent past years, a few authors have been submitting games to comps that are hosted only online, and then they disappear and are lost permanently from the internet. So to avoid that, Spring Thing is only accepting games that are capable of being downloaded and archived in some fashion. This is an old rule, I’m just enforcing it a bit more than before.

How do we feel about this? Should competitions aim to be fully archived? Should it be encouraged, but left for the author to ultimately decide? How many games would this disqualify (or discourage) from competitions if this was a blanket rule?

There was another thread about whether we could try to archive all of, which seems like a humongous endeavour. But we could at least control the archiving of our community-run competitions. If we wanted to!

We’ve seen more and more competition games hosted on personal sites or these past few years. I think I understand why people want to do this (driving traffic to their own pages, keeping control of their game are I assume big reasons?), and I don’t think those are bad reasons. I don’t see a problem allowing people to do that as the main link to play their game, as long as they also include the game file itself in their upload. But there are definitely IFComp games that aren’t playable anymore, and that makes me a bit sad. I like being able to just go and play say, whatever placed last in IFComp 2002, if I wanted to. (A Quest game! Shoutout to “Blade Sentinel.” Coincidentally enough I went with 2000 before this, but that entry has been removed from the archive, if you want to look it up)

The other thing to note is there are the competitions now that are hosted on (EctoComp, ParserComp?). The convenience is unmatched there, obviously, since has all the infrastructure for hosting and judging. Is there a way for competition organizers to easily download all the entrants or anything like that so they could be uploaded afterwards to the IF Archive, if they wanted to?

This could all also just be asking organizers to do a lot more work, I realize.


For the SeedComp (which is on itch), we encourage people to Archive their entry, or at least provide us with a downloadable copy so we can do it for them. We can’t force people to Archive their stuff if they don’t want to, and we would rather not do it without their permission.


I believe that hosting a link on itch for Spring Thing shouldn’t be a problem as long as an entrant also offers a downloadable version.

Therefore the online version is played in a way where the entrant can customize its page, update it, and get traffic for their own profiles using the comp, but IF still has a version that can be archived. (Even if the online link goes down in the future)


Well, I think you could make acceptance of the game into the comp contingent on offering a downloadable version - I was under the impression that IFComp did this, but apparently it doesn’t?

I think comps should strive to preserve their games but I’m kind of wary of taking too hard a line in practice, because not all games can plausibly be downloaded, and I’d rather have a unique game entered that can’t be downloaded than not, even if it vanishes in a few years.

If somebody wants to enter a MUD, I don’t think that the fundamental nature of MUDs should preclude them from entering - for example, Seltani games don’t seem downloadable as discrete packages (though you’d have to ask Plotkin about that, they might be!), and if somebody made a Seltani game I’d really want that to be enterable.

I have a personal stake in this question because last Spring Thing I entered a game that requires a server (it’s a multiplayer game and you don’t need a server for multiplayer, but it’s not technically feasible to not have one), and as part of security best practices the server won’t talk to any clients that aren’t hosted specifically from the page I set up - so, in effect, you couldn’t download my game. If you downloaded the HTML file and ran it locally you’d get, basically, a security error, and it wouldn’t run properly (well, at all).

Now, you could mandate that authors more generally make their game reproducible, possibly by submitting source code. For example, Seltani is open source, I think, so a sufficiently dedicated person might be able to rehost the servers, given time, expertise, and possibly money, but my intuition says that doing so would be slow and hard, and really only technically satisfy the desire to keep the comp games accessible.

This is kind of an issue with game preservation in general - live services games, like MMOs, can’t really be preserved in the same way older games can.

Anyways, I do think that in all cases where it’s easy to archive a game, the game should be archived, but I wouldn’t want to kick out a game because it was too technically difficult to archive.

Oh, really? For what reason? They relied on web services that aren’t up any more? I thought that IFComp provided a downloadable archive every year.


Sun and Moon disappeared, a ARG that was spread on different websites. Those fill in the blank games the one guy had (Dorian Passer?) are gone, though I have a downloaded copy of some of them (which I won’t upload to respect his wishes). There was a live service MUD that was disqualified when it was discovered it was posted for a while before the comp began (it was in 2015 and called Paradise, I think).

Hanon had a game called Final Girl which was hosted on a service that was discontinued, but he’s remade that now.

The Kidney Kwest game and the others by the same author are all hosted by a third party, as was that chatbot game last IFComp (Thanatophobia?)

I realize that preservation isn’t always possible, but I’ve been seeing a lot more ephemeral games recently. It’s funny because I was reading today that 70% of silent films have been destroyed or gone missing because nobody thought anyone in the future would have a way or be interested to watch them once they stopped being popular. It’s the same reason the BBC taped over the Dr Who episodes and lost a lot of the early ones. There are so many movements to discover or preserve stuff from 50 or 100 years ago. Why not preserve what we have now?
(The last part isn’t directed at you specifically MoyTW. I actually wonder if back garden would be an appropriate place in the future for non archivabke games).


My general impulse is to not mandate archivability, but to have a talk with the game author – before the comp starts – and see if they can be brought on board with the idea that archivability is important.

I don’t know if IFComp does this consistently, but I would like it to.


I glanced at the IfComp site, and it tells people all materials uploaded will get uploaded to IF Archive, and it also teaches people how to link off-site in the FAQ:

My entry runs on an online platform; it’s not downloadable. What should I upload as my entry’s main file?

Create an HTML file that links to your game, and upload that. This file can contain any style or content you like, so long as it clearly links to (or embeds?) your entry.

What people do is they upload an html file that links or redirects to a third party site. Both IFComp and Spring Thing are uploaded to the IF Archive every year, but for those games the html file is all that’s going to get uploaded for that game, so when that third party site goes down, the game is gone. The one I know of is because I tried looking it up before.

The competitions are another matter, since they’re not hosting the games. Entrants can make their games downloadable, and they’re not getting uploaded to the archive automatically as far as I can tell, it’s up to the authors. Those competitions are not as widely publicized, and I expect it’s more people that are on this forum and who are aware of the archive, and can upload it themselves afterwards. But that’s probably not everyone.

I’d be more confident in the IF Archive still existing in 20 years more than As long as an IF community exists, someone can keep a mirror of the archive up. Or at least they can have a copy to pass along, or have it uploaded somewhere. Even after the whole concept of a “web site” or a “personal computer” becomes a thing of the past. might not exist then, but IF Archive might!

My general thinking is sort of like zarf’s I suppose, in that I’d hope for authors to more opt-out of needing their games to be archive-able and there be exceptions made, more than opt-in, as in we’re relying on authors going and uploading to the archive themselves after a competition.


At least 90%, probably more, of comp entries are quite easily archivable. The few that aren’t are the rare multi-player games, or perhaps something that uses a custom web server.

It would be good to have a strong culture, almost an expectation, that most entries be archived.

For the few that can’t, comp runners could talk with the authors about what, if anything, could be done. For example, if there was a custom web server, perhaps the source code could be given to the IFTF to be preserved in a private Github repo, only to be published in the event that the server goes down and the author cannot be contacted. That’s something that some authors might agree to. (Getting a replacement server up wouldn’t become the IFTF’s responsibility, but if someone wanted to try, they could have the code in that situation.)


This is getting bizarre at this point. This is easily the 4th or 5th time that a point of contention during our SeedComp setup has since come up organically on the forum. We got into the weeds on the ethics of archival (Dorian Passer was fairly fresh in our minds at that point) and we definitely had people firmly in opposing camps per se. The lack of direct control caused by running things through ended up forcing the issue, but it was one of the topics on which feelings ran a bit hot.

I left the debate more conflicted than when I started it.

ETA: I’m not going to get into the right of the author to control their work vs the responsibility to the community to preserve games for future generations. I will say that if archiving is the intention, then that needs to be made clear from the start. Folks must understand that submitting a game to a particular comp will require opt-ing in to a festival version of that game existing into perpetuity. IFComp lacking this requirement for entry causes some consternation when games go down or authors choose to eliminate their work. This typically doesn’t occur with SpringThing, because Aaron made it clear that opting in to permanent archival was a requirement:

“…the festival version of your game must be freely available both during the festival and in perpetuity afterwards on the IF Archive.”

“The festival is privately run and is explicitly a benevolent dictatorship. The organizer reserves the final right to decide what games to exhibit and how to conduct festival business.”

Anyone not okay with that has the option to not partake.


This is something we could offer as a general service, actually. “Upload your source code to the IF Archive (or some such service) but we won’t make it public; we’ll just preserve it against the uncertain future.” With options for “make it public if my web site goes down,” “make it public if I die,” “make it public when the copyright expires”.


Not to be morbid, but how would we know?

While I’m sure folks would know if Ms. Short or Mr. Plotkin passed away, most of us aren’t them.

Hypothetically, if I were to die today, how would anyone know? Folks drop quietly out of the community all the time.


Maybe give a date in the future to automatically make it public when you upload your code?


I don’t propose to keep a watch on the obituaries! But if someone posts asking about a game, and the discussion leads to the fact that the author has passed away, then we could look at the closed archives and see if there’s something there to mention.


Well. I don’t agree with this new rule to ban off-site hosted games. Thanks for pointing this out. I shall have to cancel my SpringThing entry now.

My games run in WASM, there isn’t a “game file”, although there are sources. I like to self-host so i can fix bugs easily and just “push” updates during the development and testing process.

If people wanted the source files, that would be fine. But I usually self-host unless you want to give me a server.


I think there’s a misunderstanding here. Mathbrush said nothing of the sort, and the old rules from Aaron Reed are precisely that: old. They also do not ban off-site hosted games as far as I can tell. But those are the only two people whose pronouncements you should heed, and Aaron Reed not anymore.


I’m only interested in “archival preservation”. If your game is hosted and played on your website, that’s perfect, as long as you also provide a way so that people in the far future can reconstruct your game. A working playable version would be best, but if it’s very complex (like MoyTWs two player game or your system), having just some kind of source file or virtual machine file would be fine, even if it can’t be run without an exceptional amount of work and even if it doesn’t reflect later updates you make.

I know you personally have done a lot for older game preservation, and I really appreciate your work!


OK fantastic. Thanks for clarifying and also to @rileypb for pointing this out also. So basically, off-site hosting of a game is fine if the author also supply, for example, the game source code. That’s what I’ll do in that case.


It is highly desirable to archive comp and jam games (all games for that matter.) Interactive fiction is a unique genre that should be preserved. There are many games and software packages that were unique and useful one or several decades ago that are no longer around. I knew Scripsit (a word processor) for my TRS-80 Model IV that I used extensively in business. It gave me an edge at that time.

Whenever possible we should encourage authors to allow their work to be archived but it shouldn’t be mandatory. It is their work.

Another thought, what about the source code? Before I actually completed a couple of games, I always thought I would make the source code available. Now, however I am not sure. Not because I want it proprietary, I am just not sure I want to share my sophomoric code. Maybe later as I gain more skill.


This is where @zarf’s thought would be useful. You can save source code for posterity without embarrassing yourself at the time.


No, just embarass yourself later. :rofl: