Is there still room for amateurs?

Another thing I’d like to add is you can take as long a time to write and prepare your competition entry as you like. Yes some people do it in a few months. I took years! Many years if I go back to when I had the first idea for Border Reivers :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: So you can prepare to enter in a very low stress low key way. Lots of pacing. Potentially lots and lots of time for playtesting. Or just start working on a game for fun, with no fixed goals, and see where you end up.


I think a significant factor is just the venue. IFComp is a huge yearly institution that is by far the biggest stage in IF. While it has been a lovely event, ParserComp is a smaller, community-focused revival of a previous smaller, community-focused competition. Also, Swigian had an air of mystery, a surprising backstory, and a big reveal; whereas Grooverland might prove a little intimidating because of its metatextual elements, with people feeling that they might “miss the joke”, as it were (if anybody reading this feels that way, you absolutely don’t miss the joke, it’s great fun even if you’ve never played a Groover game, give it a shot). So I think these games are hard to compare in terms of input/output.


Even the professionals in IF mostly started out as amateurs. I think the most important thing is to try to create something you’d enjoy playing. If you can do that, you’ll likely find other people who enjoy it too. The competitions will still be there when you wish to join them, but there are plenty of IF creators who either never enter them, or only do so for the experience/for fun (as opposed to doing so for competition or with expectations of placing anywhere in particular).


“It’s not the thing you fling but the fling itself that counts.” - Northern Exposure.

It doesn’t matter at all if there are a handful or a landslide of “professional” releases, it only matters that there are no artificial barriers to entry. And there are not.


Frankly, I’m not convinced there’s a meaningful distinction between “professional” and “good”. The games with better content and polish, as judged by the community, place high in competitions. Writing is by far the most important factor. There’s certainly no evidence that being text only is a disadvantage. I don’t know exactly what you mean by “clunky” or “rough edges” but I wouldn’t use either term to describe any high placer in IFComp since it began.

If someone works hard on their comp entry, writing and coding, maybe adding some artwork or music if it’s something they can do and they feel it’ll improve the game, and their game places highly… at what point did they become “professional”? It’s not when they go above a certain pay grade, 'cause there aren’t any. Was it unfair of them to put more than a certain number of hours into improving their game? To use too much of their own talent?

Clunky games aren’t being beaten by “professional” games… just good ones.

(But then, so what? Not winning a competition doesn’t erase a game from existence.)

Quite a few of us are in The Industry™ at some level or another – another case of the line between “hobbyist” and “professional” being anything but clear. I know I’d been doing this shit for free for well over a decade before it occurred to me to ask if anyone wanted to pay me for it.


29 posts were split to a new topic: Potential Speed-IF Jam ideas (Cloak of Darkness Jam?)

At the risk of getting back on track to the original post by @BilboB, I’d suggest that 99% of us are amateurs, meaning we don’t get paid for it. Most of us do this as a hobby because we enjoy it. It’s fun. When it stops being fun, stop doing it.

Is there still room for amateurs? Of course! Does it matter whether you’re a novice or an expert? Definitely not! Nobody becomes an expert before starting out as a novice.

If IFComp sounds scary, then don’t enter it. Write what you want, when you want and at your own pace. You don’t have to use multi-media if you don’t want to, but you should still aim to make it look and play as nicely as possible.

Then request testers on the beta testing channel to get feedback. If it’s really crap and your testers are honest, they’ll tell you so. However, testers tend to be very helpful and very supportive. They’ll not only find the bugs in the game that you thought was bug free, they’ll also offer suggestions for improvement. Listen to their suggestions and make those improvements. When you think it’s good enough to reveal to the general public, you have two choices:

  1. Publish it independently on your own web site or somewhere like (A lot of us use nowadays.)

  2. Enter it in a game jam or one of the smaller competitions, such as EctoComp, Spring Thing, IntroComp (for an unfinished game), PunyJam (assuming there’s another one), ParserComp 2022 or one of the many game jams such as the Adventuron-hosted jams.

There’s a Beginner IF Jam running right now. This would be perfect for you. Games can be choice-based or parser-based. Submissions close on 30 September 2021.

Once you’ve published it, promote it here, on Facebook, Twitter, Discord or whatever you’re familiar with. Also, add an entry on IFDB.

Good luck.


I have been reading this post for a while and I like it. We are amateurs almost all participants.
We like or even love IF. This feelings aren’t changing for now.
Some people gets disconected, another ones get in.
If you like IF, you will be here online from time to time, and if you love IF you will become member of some IF community.


writing your own game is not about makeing it the best of the best of the best… it is about HAVING FUN!!

Never be afraid of failing.


It is very true that IFComp is a high-level contest. I would not recommend entering there if you have anxiety problems with artistic content.

But yes, fortunately, is that there is a lot of separate contest that has a more stress-free entry. I would recommend go to Spring Thing, that is a “festival” and has a dedicated section for “out of the main competition”.

Also, we have Introcomp, where you can send intros, non-finished games, to test the audience and receive feedback.

And, ECTOCOMP, a very lighthearted competition with a halloweenesque theme.

And in general, all the year there are multiples jams that are quite low pressure.

Oh! and the Beginner Contest I was not aware of! As ou can see, we have room for everybody.

So… welcome!


Is there still room for amateurs?
Don’t be ridiculous, it’s been a closed shop for 20 years. Like in any old biker gang, you are going to have to sucker up to the prez, vice & sergeant for years before you get thrown so much as a bone. The first thing you should do is publish a few games written in Inform 7, to show respect to the traditional tools. You’d better make damn well sure you’ve done a thing or two in Twine as well, since only then will you be allowed and expected to venture out to more more modern languages like Dialog, because obviously what was good enough yesterday will gather no applause today. Just don’t get cocky and roll your own engine, that would most definitely be above your station :wink:
Joke aside, Ifcomp is a popularity contest, judged by the (not so general) public. As such, you can always try to appeal to that audience instead. However, since the public is, well, not really interested in reading written words, that means pretty pictures, preferably animated. And sound, and music, and speech, and special deals with McDonald’s so they’ll put your merchandise into the happy meals. Hearsay has it around 50% of the budget of a commercial game is spent on marketing these days.


I think that there might be a conflation of “high-quality” with “professional” going on in the original post. Hanon noted a few professional authors who submitted non-commercial works to the comp, but I can think of literally only one game that was sold commercially, Creatures Such as We, and it was made commercial only after the comp, being picked up by a publisher who liked it. If anybody else knows of any commercial works entered I’d be interested in hearing about them, just because that’d be a fun trivia fact.

Anyways, given that the comp is already overwhelmingly amateurs, the answer is “Yes, certainly, there’s room for amateurs!” but as to the related question of how intimidating it is to first-time authors, that’s a good question. This was an interesting thread for me, because I’m a first-time author planning to enter something into IFComp, but I had no worries at all about topping the ratings, and while I think my entry will be, like, enjoyable to play, it’s not going to win. However, I don’t feel like I’m doing a disservice to the judges by entering it.

I just want to comment on this. I’ve never judged, but I do play them every year. I don’t try to play every, or even most games. Usually I pick a few random ones when they release, and then play the top few after the ratings come out, but I have never actually had this opinion of any game entered, even ones that end up rating really low or I think are really bad. I usually think, and this might not be how everybody thinks, “Huh. Well, that wasn’t very good, but they tried!”

I don’t know what actual judges think of this, and whether they would rather the bottom 1/3 of games just have not been entered so judging is easier/faster, but I genuinely enjoy seeing games with jank, implementation errors, and baffling leaps of logic sometimes, because it’s kind of fun to see people “going for it.” On the other hand I did read a lot of bad fanfic in my youth, and that might have conditioned me to respect effort over quality.


The rules require this ordering.

Scarlet Sails is another IFComp title that was subsequently picked up by Choice of Games. @Felicity_Banks I believe nearly doubled the word-count so it would be viable in a new commercial version.


Off the top of my head, Detectiveland, Pata Noir and Death Off The Cuff are all available in commercial versions.


Shade is up on the iOS App Store. Although I priced it at $1; it’s basically a promo near-giveaway to attract people towards Hadean Lands.


A good reason to head to the App Store.


Like you, I have never been an IFComp judge, but for what it’s worth, I’ve never wished the bottom third had not entered. I believe it was @mathbrush who once observed that while reviewing IFComps, he generally found the games ranked near the bottom more interesting than the games ranked near the middle because the games ranked near the bottom tended to be the works of people who dared to try new things (or something like that). That rings true for me. I can count the IF works I enjoy returning to from time to time on one hand, and one of them is Reconciling Mother, a game that was made by an otherwise unknown author and that was ranked 25th out of 27 the year it was entered into IFComp.

From my perspective as someone who has been following the IF community for 20 years or so, IFComp is still a great competition for amateurs to enter, and I hope it remains that way.


Spring Thing is definitely more ‘beginner oriented’ so I’d always advise beginners to start there, and let them know that IF Comp reviews can be very harsh (sometimes for pure entertainment value). I do think reading reviews is a skill that many writers/devs are NOT born with, and that’s the main reason I recommend Spring Thing, IntroComp, or itch game jams rather than IF Comp. There’s nothing cringier than a writer getting publicly offended by a review (even when the review is factually incorrect, which definitely does happen in the real world). I also think the IF Comp reviews are the second-best thing about it (the best thing is the exclusive thread for entrants).

But I like that anyone can enter. I would never have entered way back in 2015 (or was it 2014?) when I was new to IF (but had been writing novels for ages). And I’m so, so glad I did. It changed my life.

And “Scarlet Sails” remains one of my best monthly earners. I’m writing a cat-breeding game for this year’s IF Comp* which gives the player three breeds to choose from. I reckon I’ll expand it post-comp with two more breeds, then release it as a HG. It will be super interesting to see if it does as well as “Scarlet Sails” (either during or after the comp). It’s really simple and straightforward and I don’t think anyone will hate it for being that way.

I would expect more resentment from people about super-professional games being entered than amateur games, personally. Because if someone is running an IF company and doing just fine, it would be unfair of them to then also dominate the IF Comp. Having said that, every single person and company in IF seems perpetually on the brink of financial ruin so we’re all doing whatever we can to survive.

I also feel like just placing in the top 50% is an achievement in the IF Comp these days.

I have most definitely found my niche in writing ChoiceScript Hosted Games under the Choice of Games umbrella (NOT that I am associated or affiliated with Choice of Games in any way). They prefer stories to have no music and no images, and although I sometimes use a few just for fun that’s definitely not my strength (not surprisingly as I came into IF from writing novels rather than from gaming). “Hosted Games” is the amateur branch of the Choice of Games setup, and I’m going to stay there because I do like to play with form a little bit whereas their official (much higher-earning as a rule) games have increasingly detailed guidelines on what is most marketable and on brand. If you want to write pure text-based stories and get money for them, Choice of Games is heaven (especially if you appreciate gender and sexually diverse stories that aren’t super violent or featuring nonconsensual sex).

And IF Comp handles my kind of thing very well. If a developer is also a brilliant artist and combines the skills in their entry, good for them. But if they’re a crappy writer and a brilliant artist, they won’t do well. And if they’re me, and can’t draw worth a damn but can write pretty well—they’ll do well. (Some days I am super confident about my writing, other days I’m pretty sure it all sucks. I think everyone feels that way, but I’m 39 and the best thing about getting old is going, “Well I’ve done this for a while so however I feel about it, it’s probably not too bad.” I’ve also worked for Tin Man Games, who are AWESOME so that was a semi-professional moment.)

*gonna try not to get the submission date wrong and/or accidentally get myself disqualified this time. Like I did last year. And the year before.


I’ve been playing parser-based IF steadily since 1980. Although I have branched out into other types of games and enjoyed them, plain old parser-based puzzly IF with no bells and whistles is still my favorite.
Why? Because I’m a reader. I love it that interactive fiction is just that- fiction that I can participate in. A good text story that is told well is miles better than anything graphics or sound effects can do. For me, anyway.
And all my favorite games have been by “amateurs”-- people who didn’t do it for money.

And this year I wrote my first game and I’m going to submit it to IF comp, largely because this community of amateurs has been so helpful and supportive. I have some anxiety issues, but I love the world of IF and I’m excited about being part of it from both sides. I feel like there is room for me, and you can’t get more amateur than I am.