IF Comp Results

Well I am sad i didn’t get to enter this year, things really went to shit mid October, so I couldn’t really get much done. I also didn’t even play the games this year, or vote.

That being said, I’m a bit disappointed that Emily Short entered and won, and chose 400 bucks as her prize. Yeah, it’s a contest. Yeah, anyone can win. But when an established, famous author enters, it’s a bit ridiculous to expect anything else. How many authors went “Oh shit, Emily entered, there goes my shot at glory?” At the very least she should have entered under a pseudonym.

I haven’t played her game, so I’m not qualified to discuss the merits of it, etc. In fact, I’m sure it’s a perfect example of coding, design, and writing, and fully deserved to win. It’s just that the battle to draw in new users is lost if you’re constantly undermining their efforts to achieve anything in the community. It’d be like Charles Dickens entering a writing competition in a small town. Who do YOU think would win? How do you think his fellow competitors would feel?

I’m sure most people will write me off as a troll or a hater of the “cabal” or some such other bullshit. I’d post this on raif but I know I’d get flamed even harder. I’m honestly not trying to take away from Emily’s work or her much-deserved praise as a writer of IF. I’m just disappointed that she chose to enter a contest under her own name and then claim top prize. At least Jason Devlin, Andrew Plotkin, and Merk chose to enter under pseudonyms or anonymously, letting their games stand on merit, not name recognition.

Well, I wasn’t able to play her game since it kept crashing on my interpreter, but as a player I approve of people entering good games into the comp whether or not they’re celebrities(?) of the IF world.

On the pseudonym issue since the game was written in Inform 7 I imagine anyone who knows who Emily is would be reasonably able to guess it was her work no matter what name it was written under.

I think that’s a bit harsh actually. Are you saying the big names from the IF world shouldn’t be allowed to enter comps for fear of showing up the little guys? Personally I’d have said being a big name is no guarantee you’re going to win; it might even have the exact opposite effect. Who’s willing to bet when Pudlo and Breslin saw she’d entered, they immediately thought “right, let’s register half a dozen different accounts so we can give her multiple ratings of 1”?

Looking at it from another point of view, if you won the comp solely because none of the big names entered, would it mean as much to you?

Long time no see!

I wondered which game was yours. I remember you had planned to enter, and were even almost done. Are you still planning to release the game you had intended to enter, or will it be your entry next year?

Floatpoint is a good game. I think it would have won, even if entered pseudonymously. The average score does seem disproportionately high when compared to the rest of the results (and even the results from prior years), but who’s to say how much this would have changed otherwise?

As a competing author, there are two ways of looking at it. Emily Short is a big name in interactive fiction. It’s almost impossible to visit any IF-related website or IF-blog without seeing her website, games, tutorials, or libraries referenced. That’s daunting, yes. But what if every entrant entered assuming that every big name in IF was taking part? Wouldn’t it force us all to do better?

And just for reference, if I ever win, I’m definitely picking the top prize.

As do I. I just think pseudonymously would be the way to do it. Just as a game by “dunric” is going to have certain expectations and biases going into it, so will a game by an IF celebrity.

No, I’m saying they should enter under a pseudonym or anonymously. And, since Emily’s game received 113 votes, a total reached by another game (The Apocalypse Clock), I would guess that there were very few “joke” voters who picked a score of 1, as you surmise, unless they also made a point of voting for that other game.

Again, I’m not suggesting they don’t enter at all, I am in fact glad they do, for the very reason you quote. It would be exhilarating to pit my game against theirs and see how I fare. I’m just suggesting they do it without the benefit of name recognition.

I’m working on something different now, although it’s still based on my previous game. I wish I could’ve entered this year, it just didn’t work out.

Best way I can think to describe this is by quoting the results of “Shade” by Andrew Plotkin. It finished tenth in 2000, entered pseudonymously. Now, it is praised highly, and quoted, and talked about more often than at least five of the higher placing games of that year. When was the last time you heard anyone talk about “Transfer” or “Nevermore?” Exactly.

It’s one thing to assume their entry. It’s quite another to know you’re at a disadvantage from the start.

I wouldn’t envy you doing so. And suggesting Emily shouldn’t have taken it was a bit sour-grapish on my part.

At any rate, I guess my point is this: How would Emily’s game’s score been affected if she’d have entered it under the pseudonym “dunric?” It probably would’ve gotten at least 50 less votes, for one, and most people would go into it with a major bias, expecting a debacle like Ninja II, possibly already deciding the score in their head before even playing. It wouldn’t made it any less of a game, but it certainly would’ve altered player’s expectations and possibly even the scores.

Yes, a rose by any other name smells just as sweet. Emily’s game could’ve and probably would’ve won anyway. I’m just suggesting that the biases inherent in the small community of IF writers and players served to give her an unusual advantage in the voting simply due to the fact that her name appeared front and center on her work.

I’m sorry that this whole thing sounds a bit crude and I’m coming off as a bit of a prick. That’s not my intention at all. I’m just throwing my thoughts out there. I probably would’ve done well to keep my fingers still and not typed this up at all, and I certainly don’t want to cause hard feelings. I apologize if I have done so.

Hm, well, for what it’s worth: I considered entering under a pseudonym (and had coded accordingly) up until quite late on, but I ultimately decided it would be pointless. First of all, it was an Inform 7 game compiled to Glulx, and there aren’t many people using that format yet; second, I reused quite a bit of framework code for newbies that had appeared in Bronze. So anyone who had played that or even glanced at the source was likely to ID me from the very first input line of the game – but that they’d probably suspect just given the game’s format, which isn’t exactly something you can hide.

At that point, I figured the only real result of using a pseudonym would be that I couldn’t credit my beta-testers and advisers in the competition release, and that seemed like a lame trade-off. I’d gotten quite a lot of help on this from a bunch of people, some of whom patiently looked at multiple versions of the game over the couple of years it was in progress.

I also didn’t view this as likely to give me an unfair advantage, honestly. I have had people tell me that they would’ve scored my games higher (in this comp, or in previous contexts) if they had come from an unknown, but they expected something more/else from me, and therefore, etc. So I don’t think this is by any means a universal response, but I also don’t think that the name recognition factor is quite as straightforward as it might seem: it may make people more likely to try the game, but I’m not sure it makes them more likely to give it any particular score. (I have suspicions about the particular reason why name-recognition helps Shade: it’s a game that, at the outset, looks boring, and that’s part of the point; and if you know it’s by Zarf you’re more likely to work past that. Most other IF doesn’t work that way.)

Annnyway. Those were my reasons, for whatever they’re worth.

True. But just because you’re a big name in the IF world doesn’t mean anyone is going to say nice things about your game. Find me one person who said nice things about Graham Nelson’s Reliques of Tolti-Alph and I’ll find you ten who didn’t.

Probably sheer shock that Panks had finally seen sense and written a game with a proper system for a change instead of those horrible home-brewed messes he comes up with. Although once you’d played the game for more than a second or two, you’d quickly realise it wasn’t a Panks game.

Should Stephen King be forced to write horror novels under a pseudonym so as not to unduly put pressure on aspiring new writers?

I’ve read enough posts on the ADRIFT forums and elsewhere to know that arguing with Mr. Whyld is an exercise in futility, so although I could go all day, I will just put it to rest. I’ve laid out my arguments, Emily has responded (thank you for that) and I understand now her reasons.

Again, I didn’t want this to turn into a bash of Emily. I appreciate all the work she has done, and the way she has treated me personally on the IFMud a few months ago, as well as her work on Inform 7 and everything else. I apologize to Emily if she takes my comments as a personal attack; they were not meant to be so (although reading my initial posting again, it comes off as a bit harsh. I am sorry for that.)

Honestly, I feel that the competition would be well served in the future to have all games be submitted anonymously. In such a small community as this, it is inevitable that bias will enter into the equation, whether good, bad, indifferent. Based on name, programming language, title, etc. I just feel that the spirit of competition would be better served by an anonymous entry system. But that’s just me, and I’m sure that there are others out there who can give better arguments AGAINST it than I can give FOR it.

Again, I hope I haven’t alienated myself or caused you to think of me as a “Pudlo,” so to speak.

You certainly seem to be in the habit of turning people against you all of a sudden. Do you want me to pin up a photo of Zarf for you to throw darts at?

I’m not sure what that’s supposed to mean.

It was meant as a comment on the fact that you seem to be going out of your way to turn people against you. So I thought I’d offer you the name of someone to pick on who has never been here so they wouldn’t be aware of it and you can stop annoying the people here.

You having a bad day? I seem to remember the old you was quite a likeable fellow.

I just attempted to put the argument to rest, and you are attempting to inflame me again. This goes along with my comment that arguing with you is futile; that wasn’t meant as a dig at you, just as a comment that you are a competent debater who can carry an argument on for quite a while.

I already said I wasn’t trying to turn anyone against me. I already apologized. What more do you want from me? I respect you and am not trying to give you any further negative impressions of me.

No hard feelings on my part, anyway.

I have always thought that the tradition of entering games under psuedonyms is very strange. You seem to be saying two things when you do so:

  1. Community members, I submit my game to a competition which will be decided by democratic vote, thus stating implicitly that I think you are capable of rightly judging interactive fiction.

  2. Community members, I am submitting my game under a pseudonym so that you will not be tempted to give me a higher score because of facts irrelevant to the quality of the work.

These two statements seem to be contradictory. Either you trust the community to have the level of maturity and intelligence needed to vote fairly (in which case pseudonyms are unneeded), or you do not trust the community to have that (in which case there is no reason to take the results of a comp seriously).

I suggest replacing “you will not be tempted to give me a higher score” with “you will not prejudge it”.