National Interactive Fiction Programming Month.

This is an idea that I’ve thought about quite a bit. Sure, someone in the newsgroups beat me to posting it, but I refuse to accept defeat. Maybe I have a long time ago, just never saw the topic.

Anyways, what would your guy’s thoughts be on a NaIfProMo? I personally think that it would be a casual way to get people making games. Whereas on IFComp everyone wants to be a winner, in NaIfProMo the whole point is to make a game in one month, how ever short it would be.

Of course, we would need a different system of counting the length of games as apposed to NaNoWriMo. In that competition you need to write a 50,000 word story, but in NaIfProMo, for example, you would have to have x amount of commands to beat the game.


When I saw this discussed in the newsgroup, I didn’t really see how it would work. It’s not so much with the “goal” set for each participant, but with the results. But maybe I’m thinking about it wrong. My first reaction was that we really don’t need a hundred more shoddy, rushed, poorly-written works of IF. But I guess that’s what NaNoWriMo is all about. I figure most of what gets cranked out in novel form is pretty bad, so it sounds like something you’d do just for yourself.

So… hmmm. I don’t know who’d write IF just for themselves. I suppose there would be a website where the games could be downloaded? Would any of them be worth fixing afterwards, let alone playing as-is? I don’t know. Would this make people better IF authors, or is that even the point?

The point is to get people programming IF games. I’ve heard a lot of people say that the only time they ever finish a game is when IFComp rolls around or something. It’s just to get them working, get people programming, coming up with ideas. Of course, a central website would be established where the games could be downloaded (all the ones long enough and in on time, of course). Sure, it could produce a lot of shoddy games, but it’ll get the brain working, and perhaps a lot of people will take what they learned and make better games. Maybe like a time when people could practice and see what they should improve on.

It’s interesting to me that talking about NaNoWriMo vs. NaIFWriMo really shows some of the differences between interactive and non-interactive text. The question of what we measure. The importance of a work being made for someone else, not just yourself.

I think it would be cool to do this twice a year, once in say June and once in January. November might not be the best month simply because of IF Comp. I see it too as mostly a fun way to encourage production. Maybe there could be a ‘play round’ every weekend where authors upload what there is of their games so far and people play them as far as they are able, and then judge somehow the progress the author has made. At the end of the month you could tabulate the judging and if a particular game has enough ‘votes’ it ‘wins’. Hard to make it objective and practical, I know.

Another thing I have been curious about is if there are any IF writer workshops. The cup of conventional fiction overflows with workshops and writer’s groups, but I’ve never heard of anything similar for IF authors. Is the reason for this another fundamental difference between the media or just that the IF community is so much smaller and informal?

George gets the idea, apparently.

What I think this should be is just a way for people to get motivation to make games. A lot of us just need that extra push, and this could equate that.

As for the time of year, I was thinking about May. First off, I don’t want it to be anywhere close to the IFComp, because people have just made games and the last thing they want to do is go and make another. Secondly, it’s probably best if it’s on a month with thirty-one days. That leaves May. Then you have June-October to make IFComp games. Maybe we could move it to April.

Replying to the whole voting thing, I think that’s kind of destroying the whole purpose of a “just get out there and do it” thing that this would be. Sure, I wouldn’t mind where people could rate their favorite ones and write reviews or whatever, but there definately wouldn’t be any sort of winner, except maybe some awards for “Best Setting” or “Most Creative Puzzle” or whatever, sort of a long the lines of the XYZZY Awards, except strictly to the NaIfProMo.

I don’t think it’s a good idea to push for the games to be uploaded and made public during/directly after the month. I just did NaNoWriMo for the first time this year (and won - just) and there’s no way I’m showing anyone the horrendous mess of text I finished up with until I’ve done a LOT of editing.

Given, a short IF work can be written fairly well in a month (wasn’t that how long J Robinson Wheeler took over Being Andrew Plotkin?). All the same, I wouldn’t be keen on uploading my game anywhere until I had finished and had some beta-testing done. I certainly wouldn’t want anyone giving me feedback in the middle of the month - the temptation to go back and edit instead of pushing on and finishing first would be overwhelming.

One of the reasons NaNoWriMo is so successful is simply that everyone who gives it a go is a winner. Even if you don’t get to 50,000 words and don’t get your nice winner’s certificate and icons, it’s still really cool that you gave it a go and wrote something instead of continuing to say, “One day, I’ll write a novel…” Introducing the idea of awards would turn it into just another comp, with the addition of a weird rule that your game must be written in a month.

Don’t get me wrong, I do think NaIfProMo is a cool idea. I’d definitely be interested in doing it. May sounds like a pretty good month - it gives some space after Spring Thing (not much, but you can’t push it back too far - most people don’t do ST anyway) and plenty of time before the IFcomp. (People might even want to enter their NaIfProMo games into the IFcomp - they’d have plenty of time to tidy them up. Another reason not to push people to make their NaIfProMo games public if they don’t want to.)

The main question is - how do you establish the IF equivalent of 50,000 words? I admit to having no real ideas. I’m a little dubious about the idea of a minimum-length walkthrough. It would, of course, be possible for an author to implement one path through a game and nothing that deviates from this path. Though I suppose this would be the NaIfProMo equivalent of padding - doing whatever you can within the rules, no matter how dishonourable, in order to make your target. (Yes, I padded my novel too. Majorly.)

I’ve read the r.a.i-f thread, and came back with some more thoughts.

Someone suggested counting words within double quotes, and then pointed out that this might be diffcult with TADS 3, which uses single quotes a fair bit. What about counting words between either double quotes or single quotes? Would this give strange results with I6, Hugo, or any other language? I’m really only familiar with TADS and I7. In any case, I suppose the validator could be programmed to count differently depending on the syntax of the language in use. (This assumes that the validation would be automated, not manual.)

Of course, this wouldn’t take into account certain situations where a great deal of programming resulted in very little text. But I don’t believe there’s any objective way of measuring programming effort - unless the project was restricted to one language, which would only alienate people.

I prefer NaIfWriMo to NaIfProMo. The programming part of creating IF is only a means to an end - the text is the important part. Also, NaIfProMo sounds too much like National IF Promotional Month.

I can see your concerns there. I was saying that only those who wanted to make a public release of their games would be put into the awards. Just for a fun extra thing.

As for the other part, the programming part IS means to an end. And the point of the month is to reach that end. It’s like an exercise. Just like NaNoWriMo inspires many people who otherwise wouldn’t get around to it, NaIfProMo would do the same. Instead of “One day I’ll make a game…” it’ll be “I need to make a game for NaIfProMo!” or stuff like that.

In the end, it’s a month to inspire people to program games. Otherwise it’s just “Make a game for IFComp and sleep for the rest of the year.”

Isn’t this what the IF Dreams competition is supposed to do? Of course, there’s no actual prize, but it does help set a good deadline for some newbie authors to finish a game for.

EDIT: And, yes, the NaIFWriMo is not limited in terms of themes. :wink:

It’s not just the deadline. It’s the community involvement - because there’s a whole group of people working toward the same deadline, facing the same obstacles, sharing the same joys. With NaNoWriMo, the forums are very important - the participants encourage each other, share their experiences, suggest ways around difficulties, create informal competitions for extra motivation.

It’s easier to push yourself to finally write that novel/game when you know there are other people doing the same thing alongside you. I don’t know why, but it is.

It sounds like all that remains is to come up with the target/goal and make a website. Maybe this will become a yearly tradition.

Wait, so you like the idea?

I think it’s an interesting idea that could work. I don’t know when/if I’d participate myself.