On The Overwhelming Response To Non-IFComp Events

It seems like people who incautiously agree to organizing non-IF Comp events lately have found themselves drinking from the firehose. Ectocomp had 24 entries; Shufflecomp has over 32 intents to enter; I don’t know/remember how many intents to enter Spring Thing has but Aaron said it was a lot.

And while a bunch of the Ectocomp entries were choice-based games, a lot were parser games; more parser games, I’d guess, than similar comps got previous years. And I bet* that the same will be true for Shufflecomp and Spring Thing. Which means this overwhelming response isn’t just a matter of Twine lowering the barrier for authors.

So it seems to me that, even though the number of parser games in the IFComp has gone down, people still want to write parser games. What does it mean? Maybe the speediness of the speed IF comps hits a kind of sweet spot where you have enough time to code something you want but you’re not expected to implement every disambiguation and replace every default message? Maybe Twine really is helping keep up interest in parser? What do you think it is?

*I will not actually bet.

I think a lot of it is Twine. I’ve heard from a number of people who only have a weekend to make a game for ShuffleComp, but know that with Twine they can get something basically playable out of the door in a weekend without pulling ridiculous all-nighters. Based on parser-only expectations from a few years ago, I expected a high-water mark of 12-15 games for ShuffleComp. At the end of the day, I’ll expect to get about that many parser games.

Part of it is that we’re getting better at announcing things - and that was getting better before Twine was really a thing. In the past we’d just run speedIF on the MUD, and an event with more than ten participants was huge. Then in 2011 Jacq and I ran the Indigo New Language minicomp and SpeedIF Jacket 4, respectively, and announced them on intfiction rather than just the MUD. Totally different crowd! More games from different people!

This should have been a no-brainer, but a certain amateur-indie mindset pervaded for a pretty long time in IF that if you really cared about what we were doing, you’d make the effort to come and find us, and that if a thing was just for fun there was no point in promoting it. And in the past the community - at least, the part of it that was in any regard active - was much less spread out.

We’re getting better at recognising that there are IF people scattered all over the place, and if you want to reach many of them you have to get at least a tiny bit better at marketing/outreach/social media stuff. That is not, by nature, the sort of thing that I am particularly good at, but I’m getting better, and it works.

(I have other thoughts about this that make most sense in the context of the XYZZY results, so, uh, stay tuned for that.)

This is mostly off-topic from, um, my own topic, but are you going to host the ShuffleComp entries on their own instead of zipped up? I’ve realized that one of the reasons I don’t play most minicomp entries is that to play them you have to download a zip of everything, and I absolutely hate that. Sometimes there’s one particular game that looks interesting that I want to play, and most of the time they’re the sort of most likely ephemeral thing that I’d rather play online rather than download, which I can do for z-machine/glulx games as long as they’re on the web in an uncompressed form. And that’s not mentioning the Twine games that you wind up having to play offline.

I guess it’s a little bit on-topic, because as far as marketing/outreach stuff goes, the “here’s a giant zip file full of all the comp games” approach seems like not effective marketing/outreach.

I’d be happy to provide webspace for hosting individual games if that would be any help.

I agree! Or, rather, having both is absolutely the best option. I sure as hell want to download everything in a giant zip - I’ve played the IF Comp games on a plane, or in a holiday cottage with no web, or on a car journey, a fair number of times. Everything Online All The Time is hugely obnoxious. But it’s also just plain stupid to force everything work that way.

Temporarily, that’d be a big help - obviously long-term it should be on the IF Archive, but that’s not a good solution when a quick turnaround is in order.

OK, I hmmm. I think the thing to do is probably you send me the zip, I unzip it and Fetch it onto my website, and then I send you an URL or something and maybe you can set up a page with play online links etc.?

Sounds feasible.

Now that the results have been announced, could you expand on this?

Broadly, my feeling is that as the thing we call ‘the IF community’ gets broader and less cohesive, comps become more important as things that bring the various disparate strands together.

The finalist list has a lot of non-comp games in it, many of which had pretty big reach in non-traditional IF areas - Horse Master, Sorcery, ULTRA BUSINESS TYCOON III, Choice of the Deathless, Depression Quest. But in the event, comp games mostly cleaned up. The games I mentioned all have substantial audiences, but they don’t overlap all that much, nor do they overlap hugely with the parser-IF audience. I observed a while back that there doesn’t seem to be a coherent Community Of People Who Appreciate CYOA - there are Twine enthusiasts and Choicescript enthusiasts and Storynexus enthusiasts and so on, and a very small proportion of any of them pay very much attention to the other groups. And the same applies to parser players to at least some extent - the main time when a bunch of them play non-parser games will be the comp.

Comps are, more or less, the one big place where everybody gets together and plays one anothers’ stuff. This makes life tougher for out-of-comp releases, unless you’re Aaron, Emily or zarf. And that, I think, makes the existence of comps that provide a different environment from IF Comp more important.

That’s interesting. When I talked about overwhelming response, I was mostly thinking of the response from authors rather than players. And maybe one of the factors in the minicomps as opposed to the IFComps is that they tend to provide a built-in audience, in the other authors, and also since the audience is the other authors you can expect them not to rake you over the coals for little things. (I mean partly that people are less likely to be jackasses if they’re going to be subject to reviews of the same people. But also that if I’ve just spent half an hour unsuccessfully trying to bend the Does The Player Mean Rules to my will I’m less likely to judge other authors harshly for annoying disambiguation issues.)

A guaranteed but not overly harsh audience seems like it’d be appealing for a lot of authors. (I know it is for me.)


now we need a parser-only comp

Feel free to organize one.

That doesn’t seem like the moral of anything in this thread; the general-interest comps outside IFComp seem to be drawing an increasing number of parser games, or so I was arguing, and parser games won the majority of the XYZZYs.

For me it’s that the main comp (I haven’t entered since before 9/11) is just too daunting. I know I’m not going to be happy with the quality of the result unless I spend $insane time on it. But a throwaway minicomp? Maybe small enough.

Also I like music.

“But a throwaway minicomp? Maybe small enough.”

Is this the prevailing view of ShuffleComp? Are at least a few people taking it seriously enough that some decent games will be made? I plan on giving it my best shot in the tine allowed, granted I take everything I write very, some would say too, seriously.


I’m not going to treat it as speedIF, and I wouldn’t enter if I didn’t plan to write something worth playing, but my scale aspirations are far closer to my Ectocomp entries than to my IFComp entries.

Paradoxically, I prefer it when not every competition is hypercompetitive. Take “Fish Dreams”, one of my entries for this year’s Ectocomp… that was a truly bizarre little game, and the ratings weren’t good. I suspected they wouldn’t be from the getgo, but I wasn’t approaching the Ectocomp with a competitive mindset, so I wrote it anyway. I’m glad I did, because there were clearly people who enjoyed it.

I’m approaching ShuffleComp the same way: mostly for fun, and to be part of something the community is doing.

I think there’s the feeling with the IFComp that your game is going to be judged harshly if you mess anything up (I know I’ve had that experience in the past), but whereas with the ShuffleComp or the EctoComp people are going to be a lot more lenient. There’s less chance of your effort being lambasted because you mistyped something or forgot to include a description of an item or the like. As such, it’s more appealing to people because the majority don’t want their games being judged too harshly.

For me personally, one of the reasons the other comps have become more appealing in recent years is precisely because the IFComp doesn’t appeal to me anymore. I like comps and enjoy entering them and they’re still the best way to get people to play your game.

What do people think about competitions (even not hypercompetitive ones, such as Shufflecomp) versus compilations (such as Apollo 18+20)? I know there is at least one community member who won’t do competitions but will do compilations, and I suspect there are others. What about the reverse? Are there people who would do competitions but not compilations? Does making it a competition make it more likely there will be quality work? Or does the competition aspect not matter? Obviously there was some pretty great work in Apollo 18+20, and it got at least some attention and plays and reviews, and that format wouldn’t really have made for a good competition. Would Shufflecomp have been just as good as a compilation? Would it have suffered? (Maybe those last two questions can’t be answered until after it’s over.)

-Kevin (who just entered an intent for Shufflecomp)

The intention - really, the whole design of the thing - is that it can be whatever you want: you can knock off something fun and easy in an afternoon, or you can use all the time and work on something more ambitious. The scoring system’s designed to give an attaboy for solid works, without beating up on more speed-IFy ones. I am sure that speed-IFy will be a more common approach, but the time given for coding was chosen to make more substantial works a realistic prospect.

If one Work of Substance and Interest emerges from this event, I’ll be overjoyed. If none do, then we all had a fun community time and found some new music, so that’s still a win in my book.

(And personally, the seriousness with which I approach it will have to wait until I actually know which songs I’m getting and see what game concepts I come up with. Some ideas are worth crunching on: some are worth a quick giggle and a weekend’s work.)