Can we split IFComp into two categories?

Given that IFComp 2020 has exceeded 100 entries, isn’t it time that we split the comp into two categories, specifically good old-fashioned text adventures (or parser-based interactive fiction) and everything else (primarily choice-based interactive fiction)?

I, for one, have absolutely no interest in choice-based IF and will not even look at those games. It is very easy to write a choice based game, but not so easy to write a parser-based game. It is unfair that the two different genres are competing against one another.

I don’t want to offend the choice-based crowd. They have the biggest proportion of games, anyway. I know from various other forums, Facebook pages and game jams that there is a very strong underground movement in the return to parser-based games as evidenced by Adventuron, DAAD, Dialog, PunyInform, ZIL et al, but users of those authoring systems feel that IFComp is biased against them.

What do others think?


I think it’s a terrible idea. You may have an interest in only one set of games… but that’s not true for others, like me. In fact, I enjoy having both parser and choice games and alternating between them.

As someone who has done both, I emphatically reject this claim. I also can’t think of any justification for it. It’s not even true that parser based games necessarily require more programming skills – there are people doing stuff with Twine that I could never hope to accomplish.

(Also: shall we not revisit the tired old “is Twine really interactive fiction” battles of yore? What could possibly be accomplished in a positive sense by creating more division in this already small community?)

Parser-based games have been winning most years, so this claim of bias seems rather bizarre.


In Jacq’s blog post, this idea was explicitly mentioned under “things we are not presently willing to entertain”.

Some [suggestions] are things we are not presently willing to entertain, such as ways to reduce the number of entries through entrance fees, curated pre-judging, multiple rounds of judging with brackets, splitting the comp by genre or platform, or hosting multiple iterations of the IFComp per year.

The reason is simple: there is no requirement to play or vote for both kinds of games. Not when the comp is this size.

If there were just six IFComp entries, three of each kind, the five-vote minimum would implicitly require you to play both kinds. But we’re not exactly in that situation.

This is not a universally held position.


That’s okay. You can vote in both categories. Your minimum of 5 votes can come from either category.

How exactly is it biased against them when all I see are parser developers trashing choice based systems? Do you think IFcomp is designed so that a poorly written choice game will beat a well designed parser game?


You know, as someone who does choice-based stuff and is tired of people being really snobby about it (choice-based games contain puzzles too, you know!), I’m not exactly against the idea. It would be nice to have a fairer shot, considering that a lot of people are really picky eaters around here and won’t even entertain the thought of actually reading and playing a Twine and seeing if maybe there might actually be something in there. It would be nice to have a more receptive, more thoughtful audience, one that likes fun!


This is a bit of a tangent, but are there any data available from the previous IFComp on correlating votes between parser-based and choice-based games? I’d be interested in looking at things like the distribution of parser game scores among voters who played more than N choice-based games, and vice versa; the absolute value of the difference between the mean parser game score and mean choice based score for each voter; the absolute value of the difference between the number of parser games and choice games rated per voter; and so on. (Of course, that’s assuming there’s a clear dichotomy between parser and choice games, and that all the games in the dataset are helpfully labelled as such.)

I wrote a long tirade answer, but I think the short one is: this question has been worked out before. Most parser authors get along with most choice authors. Most accomplished parser authors are also choice authors: Emily Short, Andrew Plotkin, Jon Ingold, Joey Jones, Robin Johnson, Lynnea Glasser, Chandler Groover, JJ Guest, CEJ Pacian, Aaron Reed, Victor Gijsbers, Sam Barlow, Chris Klimas, etc. Many of them also later make more parser games.

I’ve made both parser games and choice games. I spent about 400 hours on my biggest parser game, but I spent 1000 hours on my biggest Choice-based game.

I believe that you’re not expressing a widely-held undercurrent of belief, but that you are an exceptional case. I believe that if you tried games such as Bigger Than You Think, Detectiveland or Chuk and the Arena that you would change your opinion.

Finally, this competition has more parser games in it than most older IFComps ever had. I believe that that is because the comp has become ever more popular each year, and I believe that allowing choice-based games is a strong cause of that.


I don’t think it’s wise to fragment the one event that holds this (already small) community together.

If you want to provide a showcase for parser games, though, you could try something like the ParserComp again:


Also, the last time someone brought this kind of thing up, it was closed for violating this part of the code of conduct: “Don’t claim a type or style of game already accepted by the community doesn’t belong”

(on advisement from Zarf, I also agree that I don’t think this thread needs to get locked.)


Good idea. ParserComp was enthusiastically received by the community and I know the original instigator wished someone else had had the energy to run another one.

The suggestion per se is not bad conduct – in my (non-moderator) opinion. However, people get exercised about it. Please don’t let your typing fingers get ahead of your good sense.


Maybe adding optional filters to the ballot page would be an acceptable compromise? It wouldn’t fundamentally change anything but would allow picky gamers to only see the games they’re interested in.

Filtering by play time would also be useful for those instances when you don’t have much time but would like to squeeze in a quick play.


Just to echo what others have said, you can have extremely complex choice-based games in terms of coding, and extremely simple parser games in terms of coding. Neither approach guarantees a good work of interactive fiction, or a bad work. Plus, some of the best games of either category borrow lessons from the other. I think it enriches the overall field of interactive fiction to have them side-by-side.


As Zarf said, this discussion comes up every year. IFComp should welcome all games.

That’s going to be my suggestion this year: I don’t think separating games is a good idea (I think the early IFComp actually was split between “games in Inform” and “games in TADS” or something weird like that?) But I could see it being useful now with the number of entries if there could be filterable tags for parser/choice and then also tags for genre, and tags for play-length. That way the list could be narrowed by individual player preference.

My other want is a way to surface/sink games in your personal shuffle, sort of like the Netflix queue with “move to top” - although most likely with two more individually filterable lists of “favorites” and a list of “already played/not interested” which would hide them on other lists.


The very first IFComp was. (Which is why my only IFComp win is “sort of tied for first place” rather than “first place”! :) However, it was rapidly obvious that this was a bad idea, and we shifted to a unified game list in 1996.


hmm… because the major issue IFcomp potentially has with large number of entries is the release package size, my modest proposal is reducing the max. story file size (back to 25 or 75 Mb, for example)

Best regards from Italy,
dott. Piergiorgio.

I don’t agree with crippling the size of games. But I think the file size should be listed up front (if it’s not already) so that players can choose based on their means. I understand that not everyone can or wants to play a bandwidth-sucking game. But I think those games are pretty few and far between.


I’d just like to say another three cheers for ParserComp and I hope it comes back some day. My understanding is that it’s really just waiting for someone to volunteer low dozens of hours to make it happen.

As for IFComp, it should continue to be open to everyone. It is fair for the “two” different genres to compete against each other, especially because some of the most interesting games to me are a mix of both, like Detectiveland.


Should I have got two prizes?


Cool, so you admit you’re totally unqualified to have strong opinions about them