I have a suggestion for a modification to the rules of next year’s competitions (especially IFComp, but also IntroComp, Spring Thing, maybe XYZZY 2013): for next year’s competitions, I think it’d be great to have a rule that submitted games must be both downloadable and playable on the web (using Parchment/Quixe or whatever web export system the authoring tools provide).
I think web access is important because IF competitions are (at least in part) intended to acquire new/casual IF players; downloading and installing an interpreter is a big hurdle for new players. Players whom I’ve tried to introduce to IF are getting seriously hung up on it, even just opening a game in an interpreter they’ve already installed. On the web, I can say “click here and start typing; here’s Zarf’s cheat sheet to help you figure out what to type.”
[edit Aug 12: I should clarify that the idea is to acquire newcomers when online gamer media like Rock Paper Shotgun feature good/winning IFComp games; newbies probably won’t enjoy playing random competition entries.]
I claim the hurdle is getting bigger over time, as both Mac and Windows are increasingly obscuring the filesystem from the end user. Finder/Explorer are becoming less and less essential as part of day-to-day computer use, as applications keep their own in-app repository of documents, like Google Docs and iTunes. All applications available via the Mac App Store must now be “sandboxed,” which restricts their access to the full filesystem. Windows 8 “Metro” apps get similar restrictions.
As a result, when explaining how to install and run an interpreter, I say things like “OK, now open your Downloads folder,” and people look at me quizzically.
Having said all of this, I also think downloadable games are important for archival purposes. Making games that are only playable on the web would probably interfere with that goal. (And I’ll admit that my own system, ChoiceScript, has been guilty of shipping web-only versions in the past.)
As it stands, we’re already pretty close to what I want. Inform, TADS, ADRIFT, Hugo, and Quest all have at least some web support. But a lot of games just don’t work at all on the web. Adding “web support” to the rules would make a big difference here; it would no longer be acceptable to say “oh, yeah, my game just doesn’t work in Parchment. Try it in Spatterlight; that’s what I use.”
What do you think?