Is there still room for amateurs?

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.


Very well said. My thoughts exactly!

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There had better be room for amateurs, I’m just learning html.


Welcome - As mentioned earlier the majority of modern IF is written by non-professionals. :wink:


It’s as sayd before. Most of IF games are done for amateur people. It’s difficult lastly to find a company release.

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The majority of IF, full stop, was written by non-professionals. :slight_smile:


I think you’ve hit on what I think is a very important point. Goodhart’s Law says that when a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a useful measure. The demographic and artistic makeup of the Academy and categories for the Oscars creates Oscar Bait. While certainly IFComp showcases a lot of great games, a question I ask is what great games might do poorly because of its format? What experimental games might fail completely? Would Anchorhead or Make It Good succeed if they were given 15 minutes by someone who was running through a list of 100? Just as indie games became too mainstream and thus alt games went even further underground artistically, or punk music I think this scene needs more people who write and experiment independent of the traditional metrics. Write what you want to write, and stop optimizing for IFComp.

Something that’s always inspired me: AxK Manife$to


That’s a manifesto right there.

– Jim