IFComp is gone, all hail IFComp.

I laugh at myself.

Re-reading the handful of “reviews” I’ve written, following a commentary on Victor’s blog (here) in which I stated that I should be as sensitive in reviewing as I am in scoring the games, the eye stumbles upon one of the very first sentences, my stated will to “review all of the games!”. Like I didn’t know. September through december are usually my most time-consuming months. I wouldn’t have had a chance to review a fucking nothing anyway. So why make a promise one knows he can’t keep? Well, let’s call it being young and lighthearted. Although I’m neither young nor lighthearted in any measure, anytime.

So, I laugh at myself and try to piece together something from this IFComp.

I should really stop doing any. As far as I can see, the average rant about how much a certain game fed my guts, the internet is plain full of. Like, you know, TOT’LLY. Who needs mine? Nobody. So, here is a promise I can fulfill: either I write something notable, trying to have an insight on what’s really happening inside a told tale, or I shut the fuck up.
The reasons are many. The two most notable are that 1) I add nothing to the discussion and, 2) too many times lighthearted (and young) comments result offensive to people whose harm I never intended.
Some advice to contestants trying to find something useful in online reviews: look for Emily’s, Sam’s and Victor’s and you have almost all you need (some are left out, but I guess you can find them yourself); check the german site for Text Adventures who has a nice touch on reviewing “old style games”; leave the rest. I mean, if you are looking for something really complete and insightful. If you want you ass licked, you can very well keep reading the rants people like me use to deliver.
More on reviewing. It never occurred to me that my rants would have been so important to people. I feel like a word stated here is received as some sort of final judgement upon living itself. Had I known, I’d probably skip the reviewing entirely. I dropped down some games because they didn’t fit my personal taste. Now I see people sad or angered because of this choice. A reason more to either stop or do it constructively.

I stand on the ground I took in Victor’s blog. I don’t think “judge” is a fair name for a public voter in a wide audience contest. A contest in which everyone can express their judgement by selecting a number from a drop-down menu. A judge is something different. I’m not saying (like, TOT’LLY) that this kind of voting system is wrong. I’m just stating that this is not something done by “judges”. It’s a popular vote. And a popular vote mixes the philosopher with the dumb, shakes it up and delivers a popular average. I like it this way, maybe: Apocalypse would never have won if just the philosophers would have judged it. (On a side note, Peter Pears: the original Andromeda game, “Awakening”, just came in 17th. I can’t see how “almost everybody thought it was good”. I guess you are mixing it with “Apocalypse”, which surely delivered a far better experience.)
More on judging. At the end of the judging period I had the chance to play only a handful of games. They were enough for me to vote. Still, I decided not to. The reason why is simple: I think I oughta have played a lot more games to cast a vote. For the plain reason that imo if you want to score something you need to know what’s happening. Technically, the voting system how it is pretty much works: games get a vote, not being weighted with the other, but with itself alone. So, a game which gets a few 10s is obviously better than a game which totals a lot of 3s. But. It feels unfair to me. That’s why I avoided voting. Another reason is because a lot of games were in a format I didn’t like. We are indeed weighting parser along with web-based, so it is not fair to drop down votes on a single category just for the sake of doing it. At the same time, and this is the important part, imho, rating a game very low because it’s in a format one doesn’t like seem even more unfair.
As stated in my ranting-reviews, I wouldn’t have voted for CYOAs even if I got to vote, in the end. Just because I don’t like CYOAs it doesn’t mean all of the world must get a notion from that.

This is a strange territory. I believe there is much more to say than either “I fear parser is dying” or “I hate that genre”.
Getting back to a previous point, I have to underscore the fact that, when using popular vote, the outcome must be accepted whatever the reason why we came to that outcome. If the average player says that CYOAs suck for whatever reason (objective: the actual games delivered are bad; subjective: I don’t like the medium) then CYOAs suck. As far as I can see, the world has pretty much decided that text adventures suck. The world prefers MMORPGs and FPS and Farmvilles. This hasn’t stopped any of us from producing and enjoying text adventures, so far.
If Twine is actually and relentlessly substituting Inform and TADs, well, it’s the zeitgeist. We can do nothing about it, except trying and doing something good with our time in Inform and TADs. It’s not a masterful plan to destroy text adventures. It’s simply what people are doing nowadays. So cheers! Twine is fucking awesome as a programming tool for everybody. What’s to be sad about? (Twine is taken as an example, ofc, even if 99% of games are using that system. I thought the next big thing was either going to be Undum or Inklewriter, History is saying something different. I accept that).
A word on the actual CYOAs presented in this IFComp. Some of them pretty much sucked. It was NOT a matter of being Twine games or being browser-based or due to having chosen the wrong typography (you know, Inklewriter and Undum are really cool, in their default settings… Twine isn’t!). They were simply something done completely wrong.
I’m not addressing anyone. For instance, I haven’t played Final Girl, but from the premises and the other reviews I sense this is a little miracle, a piece of genius. I have to play it to know how much it is a way or the other way around. So far, something I’ve played (reviewed or not reviewed) it was like trying to do something and failing miserably.
The problems, in random order.

  1. The poetic nonsense.
    Porpentine has opened the Pandora vase. As back in the days some very hard, unfair, puzzley game was the paragon for every other game which was born at the time, now everybody is going howling dogs these days. The good part is that we now can have a lot of new interpreters trying and giving us something different, deeper, thicker. The bad part is that not everybody is born a Porpentine. howling dogs was a mess in delivering a concept (I’m still puzzling at the details, although I think I got the bigger picture), but it was SUPER in giving us the goosebumps. Most of the succeeding trials have gone too far into the “you cannot understand” picture while failing at giving us the goosebumps. I dunno. It’s like trying and remake the Shining by Kubrick ambulating the silence of the halls… sounds too much like a parody, to me.
  2. The lack of interactivity.
    I stopped playing web-based, this year, when I stumbled upon a combo that would have killed a rhino. First, one of the aforementioned poetic nonsense; then, a wall of text so big it struck my pupils forever. I have it flashing in front of everything I see since then. CYOA (let’s say Twine games are CYOAs) means Choose Your Own goddamn Adventure. I have to make CHOICES. Repeatedly clicking on “>next” for ages is just the modern way of turning pages. We have them, you know? They are called e-books. I wanted to read a book I would have bought a goddamn book. More of the times, choice isn’t there; where there is choice is faked because everything goes on eventually pretty much the same. This has nothing to do with the medium. It’s just bad planning. This is not Interactive Fiction. So if it is rated bad, it deserves it, I think.
  3. The novelty of the medium.
    It’s Twine fault. Yes. When I started doing what I do (I’m a graphic designer), the people having Photoshop installed in their home PCs were a handful. Finding somebody proficient with Photoshop was like finding somebody who knew exactly how to operate a CAT machine or the Shuttle. Now, everybody is a Photoshop pro (THEY THINK, HA!). So everybody is a graphic designer. Photoshop is easy to use (THEY THINK, HA!), as Twine is easy to use (THEY THINK, HA!). So everybody writes a game with Twine. Hope you get the connection.
    Now, I don’t want to sound too academic. I’m not a teacher in game-making, a pro or anything else. I had my share of panic when programming my games and I will always have, especially on the game-delivering side of it. Learning how to use Inform is just a step ahead of learning how to use Twine, the hard part is designing the game, not coding it. But, for the same reason why I had a chance to enter my first IFComp with a shitty game, now people can enter shitty games in this IFComp. This implies they will have a chance to win, too, and that’s heartening.
    The medium is fresh and new. We will have nice games and nice authors. It’s just a matter of time. Porpentine (again!) has been the shining star of the beginning. A daughter of chance, having her cool approach, the cool writing and the cool features she put in her games. People has soon discovered is not that simple to sound Mark Twain, even after reading all he has written and copying his style to perfection.

Closing, three more notes.

I haven’t played them. This is luck, I guess. It means I will have the chance to play them with no time restraint. Sounds like Robin and Orchid especially will gain from this. So will the winner, Coloratura. Gratz on winning, anyway! 38 games are too many to judge in 45 days. I thought this was unpleasant, but now I can think twice.

A very few games totally sucked. Only one, as far as I can tell, were troll-demos. This is very good. Very good.

Everybody, again, will talk about this game forever. It deserves it, and the torments Porpentine is usually talking about deserve to be told. What impressed me about this game were two things, especially.

  1. I got it. I mean, it’s not me who’s become more intelligent (I don’t think one can get more intelligent than this, anyway, whoo-hoo!). Porpetine simply listened to the complaints regarding howling dogs and perfected her style. Doing this served me a lot during past IFComps. I’m sure it will serve you, Porp. Keep going because you are doing really cool thing, and delivery precious subjects. Keep going.
  2. One of the endings was about forgiveness. This impressed me more than anything else in this and past IFComps. It is told perfectly. It is told by a person who actually understands and can perpetrate forgiveness. One cannot invent such things if he/she doesn’t feel it. Honestly, I didn’t believe
    Porpentine could achieve forgiveness, reading her rants in the web. Eventually, I discover she very much can embrace it as the “right solution”. Cool. I’m not saying she will, but I’m happy she can take it in consideration. She is, indeed, a far better person that many of us around the world.

As a last word, the most important of all: thanks authors for giving us another rocking competition, and thanks Stephen for making it real. I don’t care if the prizes are mixed up or the covers are reduced to tiny postcard stamps, as long as you are in the Comp: make mine Mar— er, cheers to you!

Huh. I did get them horribly mixed up, yes. I though Awakening was the one which had won the Comp. Now things make more sense, thanks for clearing it!

Are you saying that any choice which doesn’t directly affect the outcome of the plot is “fake”? Because that is a very narrow vision of choice that I don’t agree with. Objectively speaking, every single game in this competition was interactive, and none of them could have been exactly replicated as a linear book. They differed hugely in how they used interactivity, but they still used it. The claim that they aren’t interactive fiction seems arbitrary and dismissive. If you want to give these games low ratings, go for it, but don’t pretend like there’s some kind “interactivity standard” they aren’t hitting.

That’s great advice to anyone writing about games!

That, on the other hand, I would argue is pretty bad advice. If you just read these sources, you will get pretty much just get one common viewpoint from the first three (therefore getting the wrong impression of a very homogenous audience) and (unless you speak German) virtually nothing from the last one (I guess you’re referring to ifwizz here?), because more than half of it will be lost in all your Google translations. So if your game is badly received by those first three reviewers, you’re pretty sure to give up forever. Marco, I’m really surprised to read this coming from you, given your own history with the competition.

As you know, there is only one group which we, the People’s Front of Judea, hate even more than the Romans: the fucking Judean’s People’s Front! Splitters!

Very well put! Please, folks, don’t whine that people hate you for doing choice-based games. I have loved them since I was a kid and I still love them – if they are done right! If your game was (generally) badly received, maybe the reason isn’t that people hate the presentation form (that will always just be a disgruntled minority which can be safely ignored), but what you used it for just wasn’t what people liked. As far as I can see, a number of choice-based games did pretty well in this competition and others have done so in the past.

Quoted for truth. All of it.

(Though, I would add (not to contradict you) that there have been games which I’d call non-interactive in parser format in the past. It’s a problem which is not limited to choice games.)

Actually I didn’t intend on rating them at all, and so did I.

Anyway, given that anybody nowadays compares Rameses to the “modern” CYOAs, let me explain a feeling I have.
Rameses was groundbreaking. It used the most interactive medium faking its interactivity to tell, at least, two things.
A Twine game in which the first SEVEN walls of texts are a “>next” away one from the other is not Rameses. If this happened in a blurb game, I would have rated it very, very low. Especially if that was not just the beginning, but what happens all of the time, with a couple of exceptions in all the play through.

Edit to add: stating that I’m “pretending” something just because we don’t share the same POV is a little bit too aggressive for my tastes. Either you find a way to properly discuss things with me or you can easily check any other spot in the vastness of the internet for a place where to vent your rage.

Or about anything at all.

Mmh, yeah. I think I must stain with bullshit even the most thoughtful text. It’s a signature.

Let’s try and straighten it like this: I was merely making a provocation. What I meant is “don’t read my reviews (or any other in the same set) if you want the insight.”
Yes, the three in case often share the same thoughts (not always: in fact they tend to audibly disagree from time to time), and this doesn’t mean you have to think it’s bullshit. Most often it’s interesting details. Maga and Victor maybe are usually a bit harsh, while Emily succeeds in being more “polite”, if you get what I mean. You should, of course, seek for advice and constructive criticism elsewhere, also.
Go to Pissy Lil Sausages if you wanna laugh (and get to the point of where your game is broken, also). Check Hannes reviews (although, you know, he preferred Awakening to Apocalypse and this makes him a weirdo [emote]:)[/emote] ), and many more – I stated there were more out there.

Just avoid the Octothing or whatzicalled that simply says “boring, toilet paper, vomit, dump” to whatever and all the reviews which tend to be like that.
In my poor cyanotics, I believe I leave something to be read and understood. It doesn’t have so much insight, but at least evaluates a game for all those kind of merits/demerits that people are discussing elsewhere in this forums. I like zarf’s attitude. “I begin to rate a game BEFORE I start playing, as I do for everything.”
That’s true. And right. You will never take me to see a Ryhanna show. Never. I don’t need to feed myself with two hours of butt-dance before I can say that that is plain shit.

Unless, as I see somebody discovered in other threads, Twine games HAD a lot of 1s just for the fact of being Twine games.
That is bad.

Yes. Groundbreaking games. The lack of interaction was INTENTIONAL. Masterpieces.

I’d like to add something to my rants:

I have a problem with walkthroughs. As stated somewhere else (as you nice hagiographers of mine surely know), a walkthrough is the game’s killer. Too many times, in IFComp, we everybody tend to resort to the walkthrough because stuck. Two thoughts about it:

  1. A game is spoiled by the walkthrough. Although I understand the time limit forces us to use it, how many times we rushed it? How many times we destroyed the emotional link to a game because we ran to the WT? Was it always necessary? While I know that some games are simply broken (you HAVE to use the WT because the puzzle is impossible), other had their solution just a few steps ahead of us. Was it worth it? How many games did we ruin this way? How many are we going to keep ruining?
  2. How come, nowadays, hard games are rated worse? I’ve read a ton of reviews stating that this or that game was too difficult. “I had to resort to the WT”. “Too steep a ramp for the IFComp.” Was Lost Pig easy? Vespers? A Change in the Weather? Has a game to be COMPLETED before we understand if it’s good or not?

I always prefer to release games without walkthroughs because I suspect people tend to go straight to the walkthrough the first time they get stuck instead of trying to solve the puzzles the good old fashioned way. And then end up liking the game a lot less because of it. What’s best - a game which you have the satisfaction of solving all on your own? Or a game that you finished only because you looked at the walkthrough and simply keyed in commands from it?

Saying that, if you’re playing a game with a 2 hour deadline, you don’t generally have much time to spend on the puzzles, unless of course you simply ignore the 2 hour rule and play for as long as you want (which is what I always do).

don’t patronize

there are ways to suck in every medium, who cares

and don’t compare people to me. i didn’t set a standard, i just made games that were right for me. i will not be the symbol used to denigrate the works of others.

Do you agree with this sentiment:

“I begin to rate a game BEFORE I start playing, as I do for everything. That’s true. And right. I will never play an IF game translated from Italian. Never. I don’t need to feed myself with two hours of spaghetti recipes and butt-dancing before I can say that it is plain shit.”


Porpentine: These things just happen. James spoke about you in this context the same way we could talk about Cadre’s Photopia “opening up the pandora’s box of puzzlessness”. Except that’s not quite true, because of A Mind Forever Voyaging, but we still think Photopia first. Which will show you how much it all means, or doesn’t mean.

We’re just freaky people who like to cathegorise things, and theorise a lot. We’re not making you a symbol… but you are a very important, high-quality, prominent member of the Twine community, who constantly surprises us with every new game, who broadens our horizons a little bit at a time (and sometimes a huge wallop at once). So don’t take this the wrong way, but I’m afraid you’ll still be theorised about.

Re the bit HannonO quoted (somehow I’m finding I missed things in the original post because it was such a block of text), I think you’ve misunderstood Zarf’s meaning, James. You do indeed begin to rate a game before you start playing - that’s Zarf’s view. What you say next is, instead, that you begin to judge a game before you start playing and will refrain from even loading it up. Not quite the same thing.

If we remove the racist part, that I can’t find in any twine related thing, yes.
Indeed, people bashed in my games because they were translated from italian (which, actually, they weren’t) and they were and always will be right. That’s obvious.
I learned the lesson and had my game read and corrected much by a man from the UK.
As for the spaghetti: that’s the same old italian depiction. It never hurt and never will hurt Anyone whose IQ is more than 15.

By the way, much of what they say about italians is true.

You must be joking. I was just expressing my taste on your work.

Somebody may. That’s perfectly what I was saying, anyway. So thank you for repeating.

You DID, actually, set a standard. A lot of things happen to us, even if we don’t want them too.

The only thing I could finalize, by this last post of yours, is that you cannot use the uppercase.
It’s not a matter of style. Maybe your shift key broke.

Mmmm. Okay, you are right.
That’s what I do, yes.

But, then again, I don’t rate those games, in the end.

Quoted for irony.

You mean, most Italians are plumbers, like to stomp on the backs of turtles to gain extra lives, and eat magic mushrooms for power-ups is true? [emote]:shock:[/emote]

That is a load of nonsense! They are too busy stealing Pokey the Penguin’s Arctic Circle candy.

The magic mushroom bit might be true, actually.

Ow, fuck. I forgot about that particular italian…

Flattering as this is, I’d strongly disagree. First, Hannes is basically right that Emily, Victor and I represent a fairly closely-aligned range of viewpoints, one which really isn’t representative of the community as a whole. If you just read us, you’d get the impression that Their angelical understanding was the shoo-in favourite, and also that rules-light indie RPGs are more popular than D&D. (And there are other very fine reviewers, with very different approaches, who everybody should be reading. Carl Muckenhoupt, Jenni Polodna and Chris Huang are must-reads for me. Every year we get new reviewers doing good work - Adam Myers and PaulS made solid contributions this year.)

IF Comp is basically a populist event: it’s open, loud, not always polite, and of decidedly mixed quality - which goes for both the the games and the reviewers. That’s its great strength and great weakness. But it’s important to remind authors that their audience is mostly not going to consist of players who are patient, theory-minded and concerned about being fair to games.

Also, you don’t get good at reviews by not doing them; the other valuable thing about the Comp as an event is that it encourages people to join in and write reviews, which I think has been kind of critical to IF being a field with a critical tradition. And, well, allow me to quote my teenage self, from a preamble toreviews from years past:

If my reviews have any merit whatsoever, it’s mostly because I kept at it.

I liked Awakening better than Apocalypse too, but then, I never made it far enough into my list during Comp 2011 to play the original version of Awakening. I only experienced the Final Cut, which is simply awesome. (Then again, I don’t think I ever played any other version of Apocalypse besides the first Comp version or maybe even a late-stage beta.)

I definitely think that newbie IF fans should always feel free to write a crappy little game and enter it into the Comp. I did that once, and it was a great experience, even after I read a couple troll reviews, including one profanity-laced one that seems to have disappeared from the Internet but not from my memory. Having been listed in the Comp is actually one of the things that I’m still most proud of in my life.

I think reviewers shouldn’t feel that all the crappy little games are a personal insult to them or their sensibilities. However, I also don’t mind judges casting reactionary low votes based on their personal sensiblities and prejudices, as long as they don’t broadcast their decision to do so in cruel and hurtful ways.