Fix the System: Allow fixing games during comps

I propose you to reconsider allowing game fixing (mayor, minor, fully… whatever) during game comps, even during the voting period.

Aren’t we inheriting this rule without re-thinking again?

If we allow it:

  1. We will all enjoy better games.

  2. It is not unfair, if everybody can do it.

  3. The problem of being suspicious about this or that game being updated out of the rules disappear: Honor based system is good, but that is even better.

  4. Less headaches for organizers resolving or judging this kind of issues.

  5. Developers don’t need to wait for comp to end and will be still motivated to improve their games even more, taking advance of the inertia of development for the competition.

  6. We already live since some years ago in a world of “uncomplete” software publishing in the commercial game’s scene, that receive continuous patch and updates, with many mayor bugs in many AAA games.

  7. Developers will still work hard to have the game as complete as they can for the submission time, as early voters will judge their buggy version, but working on the game will do future voters don’t suffer for those bugs.

  8. Competitions working like XYZZY (you know, Oscars nomination style) are already nominating works that will not stop their improvement.

  9. We are getting older each second, don’t waste the valuable days of youth just looking your games suffering by bugs or lack of content you could repair, waiting to retirement to amend them.

  10. Makes life easy.

I know perhaps could be controversial, but… hey, the king is nude, dude.

Its your time to talk! : )

IFComp allows game updates during voting. This rule change went in in 2015, I believe.

7 Likes

I love it that we can do bug fixes during comps.

But why on Earth are people putting unfinished games in comps? If your game isn’t finished and needs significant work, why not do the work and put in the next comp? There’s always one coming up. I want to see finished games in comps. Playable games that have been tested. Polished work that I can judge on its merits, not on how finished it is.
Everyone always has a few little weird places in a comp game, and that’s OK, because your testers can’t catch everything. But I don’t think a comp should be a testing ground for folks to finish their games.

6 Likes

As best as I can recall, all comps that I’ve been involved with over the last couple of years have allowed bug fixes, but not major content changes. I think that’s fair.

4 Likes

I suppose that this comes from the game Jam concept, more like a party of developers working during the given time to see what they can achieve, and showing the result at the end.

I suppose that the idea of a comp is another different one, but hosting them at itch.io don’t help to clarify : )

As you will perhaps remember, I was asking you about not sending my first option game to ParserComp 2022 some days ago. I get a bit surprised with everybody telling me to send only finished work (a good idea, thanks to all) but I feel in the obligation of send alternative work, no matter if not too good or finished. I was under the Jams philosophy : )

1 Like

Perhaps I didn’t use the right word, sorry.

I’m not talking about BUG fixes, but about fix the whole game: Continue enhancing it with more commands, text, locations or UI functionality.

To play pedantic historian, 2011 was the first year. IIRC JMac had a potential gamebreaking bug in Warbler’s Nest (2010) that was a one-line fix. It may’ve been the thing that opened the floodgates, because it was a well-done game that, if you tried certain things, would look very different and leave a player locked out of the ending that explained a few things.

I think the process became automated (just upload your new binaries) in 2014 or 2015. Definitely 2015–I remember I had a one-line fix for an infinite point-scoring bug that resulted after a tester said “hey, you should let the player keep track of their score” a couple weeks before the deadline & I figured, okay, this would be hard to mess up. So I was glad to be able to do that automatically.

Then social media restrictions were loosened later.

I am really glad we can fix bugs, and I hope this rule stays in place, but I think additional features would be a big problem. This works well for me, because I don’t mind making a quick post-comp release to say “Hey, I read the reviews, and I took the time to write and test a new feature worth a re-release.”

I also think adding a feature during the comp is stressful and prone to bugs. It’s tough enough to go through the process of bug-fixing or patching. So I’d rather not have that option, period. I’ve already fixed a few minor bugs, and I just don’t want to make any big mistakes.

There’s a grey area here. Is fixing the help a new feature? Is adding in help text so that people know to use a poorly-documented feature also adding a feature? Is renaming certain things for clarity bug-fixing, or a feature? If I write a new test script to check off on bugs, it seems like bug-fixing, but it also feels like development.

Maybe I have an unfair advantage because I can use git/source control to branch off post-comp changes, but I found it’s good for my coding/planning skills in general to force myself to compartmentalize what changes are where.

I hate rules-lawyering, but on the other hand, I think there should be limits on what we change, and if they’re clearly spelled out, we know what to do and what we can focus on during the comp.

And that said, I really enjoy seeing fellow competitors’ post-comp releases and the features they added. They’re ones I might not appreciate if they’d been snuck in mid-comp.

5 Likes

Are we talking about bug fixes or whole new game parts?

Clearly there has to be a limit on how much new content can be added, except specifically for “jams” where this is how they usually roll.

Adding or changing objects, new alternative endings and things within the confines of the existing story, i think, ought to be ok.

But could i introduce a whole new character, their dialog and some puzzles and call it the same entry. Not sure?

2 Likes

This is a very important point that I don’t think many people have considered (certainly I didn’t!). Itch is a convenient way to host a competition, but the regular Itch crowd possibly doesn’t see the difference between a jam and a comp because they are so used to the jam ethos.

Apparently, it would behoove comp organizers to make this difference very clear in the future, with an above-the-fold explanation of what the comp wants in its submissions.

3 Likes

I wouldn’t have thought so, no. Fix bugs, but don’t add big chunks of extra game. There are grey areas (like is improving help a bug fix? Probably, if lack of it is seriously impeding players), but it’s mostly common sense.

Then again, I wasn’t really aware of any distinction between ‘jams’ and ‘competitions’, so that’s certainly something to think about for next time.

I guess the question of whether it’s allowed or not is kind of moot, because it will almost certainly not help.

  • There are a surprising amount of people who hop on a competition on the first day and download every game they can to play later who will never see any fixes.
  • Very few people replay games in a comp. It feels like there’s not enough time to play all the games once, so why would you come back to a (now even bigger) game to play it more?
  • New changes make new bugs. Every new change should probably be tested 2-3 times before most bugs are caught (hopefully by other people but can be by you if you’re methodical).
  • If you have an online game, updating it can break save games for people who already started.

So even if everyone agreed that it was okay, it wouldn’t really help in the long run, and could actually worsen your chances.

7 Likes

Part of the issue also is when you use itch, the organizers don’t get to manage the entries at all. Authors have their own account and can change and update the files at will. I figure that’s why itch calls them jams instead of comps because logistically there’s less control over what is considered the canon “entry”.

While itch is convenient, if you want to do a strict competition with completion deadlines, itch may not be the ideal venue.

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As someone who updated her game about 20 times (or more, at one point I stopped counting) during the last IfComp I’m sure glad bugfixes are allowed. But I also agree that significantly expanding the game is a completely different thing - games we release should feel complete. Let’s not stoop down to the level of AAA gaming industry!

Of course, one may get a ton of ideas for new content during the comp, from players’ suggestions and their own overanalysing of their entry, which is why post-comp releases are a thing. I admit, last year I had so many new ideas I struggled with the desire to sneak in one or two things in my bugfix updates, but - as far as I remember - I resisted the urge.

How many people play post-comp releases of comp games is, of course, another question.

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It depends how authors view a comp. Some might be in it as an elaborate system for testing and feedback, where others view the entry as a finished game. We always tout comps as “the way to get attention for your game” instead of posting it cold on IFDB.

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That’s pretty much me, especially for IF Comp and Spring Thing. I prefer to play offline and ideally in an interpreter where I can set the font etc to work well for me. Unless I learn of a killer bug I won’t redownload or play an updated version of a game. If a game can only be played online I will probably be playing a fix, time permitting. But otherwise nope. P.S. this approach is helped by a single ZIP download that includes all the games, as in IF Comp.

1 Like