Long games in IF Comp?

You can do whatever you want!

The rules don’t tell judges how to feel when a game goes past the two-hour mark. A long game is likely to get docked points by some judges who interpret the rules as meaning that long games aren’t what IF Comp wants to encourage. Other judges will “base their judgment of each game on at most the first two hours of play” by asking themselves “well, what was the quality of these first two hours of play?” and rate the entry without consideration of its scale.

I thiiiiink the former attitude is the more common. If you want to win the competition, you have to make a game that people can finish within two hours.

But the rules are very clear: “Authors may write a game of any length they desire.” You are allowed to submit a very long game. And you are not required to try to win. If a very long game is what’s in your heart, then you should make that very long game happen, and the Comp will be happy to have it. And the judges will either like it or they won’t. Who cares.


Gotcha… kind of a bummer for the longer games, since it seems like there is a good chance that the “best” games in story and execution would need more time to be developed and unfolded. (Which is not trying to say that a two-hour game can’t be worthy of really high marks.)

Should I assume that the reading of intros and instructions all counts as part of the game’s two hours? Is it unreasonable to think of doing a compile that is geared for comp judges, maybe cuts out some text, and gives a few free hints to them so they can see more areas and characters before time’s up?

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People with longer games have often submitted them to The Spring Thing instead.


We usually say “expanding and improving the game for a post-Comp release”. This is encouraged, but of course it’s post-Comp.

If the Comp version of the game feels incomplete, that might be problem.

As someone who can’t stop writing too-long games - in the submission details IFComp allows you to list your game as “longer than two hours”. Nobody will stop you from submitting an epic, but it’s up to you if you think the judges will get the full effect when they have to vote on it at the two-hour mark. If someone spends two hours treading water and is bored and scores you without experiencing the amazing climactic third hour, that’s a risk you take.

IMHO the “two hour” rule nowadays is more a courtesy to the judges not to feel obligated to complete every game. If I understand correctly, the original purpose of IFComp was to encourage shorter games back when week-long Infocom-length and puzzle-commitment was the norm.

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Not an authority here, but I would certainly think that “reading” is an inseparable part of “playing” and must be counted in the total time.

I personally don’t want comp authors to do this. Your goal should be to enter the best game you can, not an abridged or dumbed down version. If that means lots of reading and hard puzzles, then so be it. Hints are always a good idea, but don’t try to push them on players. One of IF’s advantages is freedom to go at your own pace.

I had a similar question last year from the player’s side of things:

No definitive answer emerged, but the best thing to do seemed to be to play naturally and let things shake out. Authors should probably do the same. (But, of course, what I want and what will get you the highest score aren’t necessarily the same thing!)


Speaking purely for myself and not in any official capacity, I would love to see more long games entered into Spring Thing instead of the IFComp! Along with the absolute firehose of games that is IFComp these days, it is intimidating to look at the list and see so many with a playing time of over two hours. If more of those were to go into Spring Thing instead, the IF comp annual schedule might be a little more balanced.


I feel that too, but unfortunately I believe it comes down to the fact that actual money can be won in IFComp. And that especially makes a difference for an author creating a longer work that takes most of their year (or more for something like Alias the Magpie) as opposed to someone who can crank out three or four short but sweet gems in the same amount of time. If I’m going to spend time writing one game, I’m going to show it where it has the most viability.

(Nothing against short games at all. I wish I had the kinds of ideas that would allow me to produce multiple short titles of quality to enter in all the comps. And I know “short game” does not necessarily equal “short development.”)


You should absolutely provide a walkthrough, and preferably hints as well, regardless of game length, but especially for a game that is not expected to be finishable by a typical player in 2 hours.

You might also consider carving out a portion of the game to submit to IntroComp. Like SpringThing, there’s no expectation of length, and you can get good feedback before releasing the finished product (and maybe even a cash prize if you beat the one-year deadline).

Even if you don’t submit it to any of these comps, a long game can often get attention in the XYZZY Awards.


@HanonO, your last post was kind of how I was feeling about it. While I understand the judges’ point of view as well, for a game with so much effort involved, it just feels right to enter it into the show/competition that’s “the biggest deal”.

@DougOrleans, I was definitely planning on having a full-fledged hint system, I’ll consider the carving-out option, but I don’t know how easy it will be with my game world.
Thanks for input!

I’d echo the suggestion to enter the game in Spring Thing instead. It is also a big deal as a competition, but importantly provides more space for judges judging and longer games.

I love IF Comp, and have judged in it since the very start, and participated as an entrant. But as a judge, faced with a huge list of games, I find very long games extremely discouraging in the short few weeks we have to judge multiple games. I don’t think I could judge them fairly, so I’m more likely to pass on them. I’m certainly very unlikely to play them to completion.

I do think your game would get a better reception in Spring Thing. I don’t think it would get the best judging it can in IF Comp.

Good luck!

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Thanks @vivdunstan, I’ll be considering it. There’s a pretty good chance I don’t have the time to submit it for this year’s IFComp anyway…

Question though, since I don’t have a full understanding of a judge’s side… why would a long game add any discouragement factor whatsoever, if the judges are only required to play any game for two hours? Isn’t further play after that something the judge does on their own time, and not as part of the competition?

As a judge I am very tight on time - hampered by my neurological disease. I want to judge games fairly. Personally if a game is advertised as very long, way longer than 2 hours, I don’t personally think I can judge it fairly in just 2 hours. Nor would I find it particularly satisfying. Faced with a choice of a shorter game and an extremely long one to judge I’ll usually opt for the former. My personal response. But as a judge I feel very under pressure in IF Comp with the huge numbers of games each time. And shorter games can work better for me.

I’ll say still enter the game even if the game is 10 hours long. The IFComp is a cornerstone in the IF community and to be able to take part in it is a real pleasure.

Judges vary. Some play the games for two hours and judge how their experience was, while some have a strict criteria that they follow. If you want to win the Comp, a two-hour game is what you’ll need. If you just want to show off your game and get involved in the competition then go ahead.

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Well, primarily I’m playing games for my own enjoyment–any judging I do is secondary (and with the size of the comp lately, it’s been a while since I cast any votes). I’d rather play a game that I’ll have time to finish. Playing for two hours and then stopping in the middle doesn’t seem like a good experience.

One thing is that it’s all on my own time; “judges” aren’t like official judges or anything, they’re just people who hear about the competition, play the games, and then vote on them.


@vivdunstan and @matt_weiner, I follow what you’re saying.

Does this mean it’s conceivable that an author could submit a long game to IFComp, and none of the judges will even review it? (Presuming all of the judges happened to think along the same lines, and only choose the shorter games… because to be a judge you only need to play 5 games, right?)

Or, say only one or two judges elected to play one of the long submissions. Even if they both gave that long game their gold-medal vote of the games they played, will that game still get blown away in the competition because it only “got” 2 votes?

Apologies if I’m asking obvious questions here… I did read the comp rules once, but they’re not fresh with me…

In fact, can anyone give me a brief on how the winning entries are chosen? I just read that a given judge can use their own 1-10 system, but how is a given entry’s score computed? Is it an average? Cumulative? How is it handled if two dozen judges play a game and all give it 7s and 8s, where another game only gets played by two judges, and these just happen to be a little quirky and partial and give the game 9s, even if, say, it would have gotten mostly 5s and 6s if played by a wide audience?
Or is there any competition ordinance in effect that has a way to make sure all the entries get a similar amount of judging?

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I think the final score is a mean average of all the judges’ scores for that game. I don’t believe that the number of judges is factored in. So I guess it’s technically possible that a game only played by a few really enthusiastic people will beat other entries.

In practice, number of votes almost certainly won’t be an issue. This is partly because some judges (including me) use a random shuffle option that the IFComp ballot provides during judging to choose what games to play next. This helps to get eyes on games that might otherwise be overlooked.

The lowest number of votes I’ve seen a game get was Alice Blue from last IFComp, which was hampered by being Linux only in a competition where most judges use Windows or Mac. Even that got 9 votes, and some of those were people on non-Linux systems who jumped through hoops to play it and give it a fair shot. You probably don’t need to worry about a lack of judges.

I’ve only judged IFComp games for a couple of years, but FWIW I don’t mind long games being entered. Since I can’t guarantee that a long game is good all the way through in my 2 hour judging period, I have to have a lot of trust in the game and the author before I can give it a really high score. But length isn’t a huge handicap if your game is good - robotsexpartymurder and A Beauty Cold and Austere are both big games, and both placed very well in their IFComps (6th and 7th respectively out of ~80 entries).


Thanks rabbit! Good to know… this thread hasn’t exactly made it easy for me to make my decision!

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One thing is that the preference viv and I expressed is just our preference! There are many people who are fine with long games in the comp, and there are always a few people who try every game. So if you’re concerned that your game will get downranked because of people like us, I don’t think it’s very likely.