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.