Getting people to play your game

I am working on my first-ever IF game, and I’ve just begun beta testing. I hope to be finished with it in the next couple of months.

Here’s my question: Should I submit it to IF Comp?

On the plus side: I’d really like for people to play and enjoy my game, and from what I can tell IF Comp is the best venue for getting your game out there. Since I’m a first-time IF author, if I just submit it to the IFDB hardly anyone will notice it.

On the minus side: The game is far longer than two hours. My first beta tester (an experienced IF player) took four hours to complete it -
with the walkthrough I provided. From what I can tell the “two-hour” IF Comp rule is supposed to be just for judging purposes and not a hard limit on the length of the game, but I can’t shake the feeling that submitting a game as long as mine to IF Comp would somehow be violating the spirit of IF Comp. I’m also concerned that (simply because it’s long) the game might get some poor reviews and ratings that it wouldn’t get otherwise, which might discourage other people from playing it.

Alternatively, I suppose I could sit on it until Spring Thing next year. But it seems a little silly to wait that long if the game is finished. Plus it looks like the IF Comp games are more widely played than the Spring Thing games.

If anyone has some advice or thought for me on this, I would appreciate it! Thanks.

IFComp, in my opinion, is the best way to get people to play your game.

If your game is good, don’t worry about the time limit. And don’t worry about winning. I’ve gotten good response from games that placed 11th, 13th, and 22nd.

Your comp game goes on a list, and far in the future it is associated with the comp, and many people review past comp submission lists for interesting games to play.

It is probably too long to submit to Sub-Q which would be another venue, but they only request short works. If your game is polished, well-tested, and as good as you can make it, there’s no reason not to enter it to get your work out there. Plus, you have almost two months before the “intent to submit” deadline to research past comp entries yourself to get a handle on the types of work that is submitted. People like to vote for the entire game, but only rarely will people penalize games for being “too long”, especially if they enjoy the first two hours.

Thanks, Hanon. That sounds like good advice.

Instead of, or after, IF Comp you could put the game on the Quest website. I think games that are Editor’s Picks get a lot of attention.


IMO, save it for SpringThing, and write a shorter game for IFComp… It might give you some ideas for improving your longer game between now and next spring. Unless you really think your game is already The Best Ever in which case maybe put it on Steam Greenlight or something!

The only down side to the IF Comp is that the level of critique is really intense. (That’s also an up side, of course.)

When I entered “Scarlet Sails” (2015) it was the third IF piece I’d written (so I’d already had some positive feedback on - its game jams are a GREAT place to start, plus I’d had a mix of mostly-positive and some-negative reviews for a longer Hosted Games story, “Attack of the Clockwork Army”. I’d also written literally hundreds of non-interactive stories (more than ten of them rejected novels). I’d won or placed in thirty or so writing contests and had been given plenty of professional and not-so-professional feedback. The very first review I had for “Attack of the Clockwork Army” (which is novel length) was “Worst one I’ve ever played” and the reviewer had felt so strongly that they’d placed the same review in several locations. Even at the time I found that very funny (although I would have been discouraged if more than half the reviews were negative, especially if they all pointed to the same flaws).

IF Comp reviews are SO GOOD for learning and growing as a writer. I think I had maybe one or two that were truly positive, and twenty that were quite even-handed in saying the story’s strengths and weaknesses. (“Scarlet Sails” placed in the top ten, and I believe it played an important part in changing my career to IF.) To put that in context, my most recent IF story is “Choices That Matter: And Their Souls Were Eaten” which is a professional game released by Tin Man Games that readers have to pay for. The overwhelming number of reviews are glowingly positive. Amusingly, quite a few people have said it’s the best game they’ve ever played. It’s only the sixth (ish) IF story I’ve written (but of course my previous writing practice is well over 10,000 hours of “training”).

So, the IF Comp is a harsher reviewer than the paying public. By a lot. If there are flaws in your story, they will be shouted from the rooftops and preserved forever. But you will also know exactly what flaws you need to overcome, and for free. And some reviewers will tear down and mock your story just for fun, too. They’re very entertaining reviews to read, but not so entertaining for the writer. You need to be able to keep your mouth shut, even when reviewers get stuff wrong (they’re only human, after all). Not just because of the comp, but because of YOUR professional reputation. This is a small community, and if you are whiny or lazy (bugs? typos?) everyone will know. (Also a forgiving & inclusive community, in case that wasn’t obvious.)

The private author’s forum is an incredibly awesome place to commiserate, vent, and just get to know the other entrants. My life is richer for getting to know people in the IF Comp (and I watch their lives and games with interest). I definitely feel like I knew people “before they were famous”. The IF Comp also drew paid work towards the writers (which is so extraordinary!)

You can kinda tell from the length of this response that I’m both a novelist and a teacher.

A superlong game isn’t technically ideal, but fundamentally if your game is good it will do fine.

Zackly! :sunglasses:

MTW, are you going to enter again? I’d beta test for you if you did.

Felicity, thank you very much for that detailed response - and especially for the insight into the IF Comp from an author’s perspective.

I’m a published author, but over 90% of my income comes from interactive fiction. Friend-wise, about half my writer friends are novelists and half are IF peeps. But more and more of my novelist friends are following me into IF because it’s sooooo goooooood.