ParserComp discussion

Looking down the road…

Parser games are awesome. I’d like to see more parser games appear in various competitions. I want to encourage more people to explore parser as a format. Toward this end, I’d like to run a mid-size parser-only competition.

Here are some ideas I’ve been tossing around about how this would work.

Parser games only
Any game not using a parser would be disqualified.

Games must be written between Dec 1, 2014 and Feb 1, 2015
This is intended as a mid-size comp rather than a major competition. Having a designated time window will make the competition more open and fun.

Games can be previously released, as long as they’re written in that time window
I’m thinking of Taleslinger’s New Year’s SpeedIF here. If someone starts a parser game for that event and wants to keep going and submit it to this event, that sounds fine by me.

Optional theme
There will be a theme suggested for inspiration. Using the theme is optional, although there will be a judging category for it - see below.

Open judging
Anyone who isn’t participating can judge the games. I’ll probably collect scores via SurveyMonkey.

6 rankings for each game
Each game receives rankings in Writing, Story, Puzzles, Use of Theme, Technical, and Overall (where Overall is basically “how much did you like it?”)

…leading to 18 awards total
Winner, second place, and third place in each of those categories.

Judges must play at least half the games
I don’t think we’re likely to receive so many entries that this is a hardship.

Judges must give feedback
In order for a judge’s ratings to be accepted, the judge must provide a few sentences of feedback on the game as well as the numeric ratings. This feedback will be delivered anonymously to the game’s author at the end of the competition.

For authors, talking about your own game is OK; talking about the competition is OK; talking about other people’s games is not OK; canvassing for votes is not OK
Trying to hit a middle ground between casual and strict.

No prizes
Just the acclaim of parser-loving people, and lots of attention and feedback for your game.

Feedback? Suggestions? Concerns?

Sounds awesome!

Suggestion: since this is a parser-only competition, perhaps it would be interesting to encourage interesting changes/improvements to the parser? I’m thinking of things like automatically resetting the letter-remover in Counterfeit Monkey, or writing on the cubes in Spellbreaker, or actions involving three nouns.

Not everyone is as good at coding as you are, Draconis! [emote]:D[/emote]

But I see what you mean, encouraging it is cool. For a second, I thought it would have to be a definite. [emote]:)[/emote]


Some personal quick thoughts: (personal = you can disagree [emote]:)[/emote] , quick = they can be thought twice by me in the future)

Why? It could let games written (i.e.) for the IFComp but missing the deadline to be included. The time constraint gives me too much the SpeedIF feeling, while I would sponsor a “Medium Sized Games” approach more.

This goes against the will to promote more PG-making. “New” games means “more” games, no?

Finally! This I love!

Don’t surrender before the fight [emote]:)[/emote]

This sounds like a lot of fun, and it sounds low-pressure too. I’ve had a lot of ideas floating around, as well as things to try with inform.

I agree with Marco about the absolute time constraints, though I don’t know if a too-finished game would be in the spirit of the comp. Since there are no prizes, it doesn’t matter to me, but all the same, it’d be nice to have some disclosure from the author that this was a longer-term project. If someone has a game that’s seriously underway, save it for Spring Thing. If it’s just 5k of code or something, throw it in. Participants can be on their honor.

I would like the idea of no hard barrier to development from December 1 to February 1 or whenever.

And while it’s interesting to have games that push the parser’s capabilities, my guess is that this competition is about doing something neat and unusual you haven’t done before.

I would welcome a shufflecomp-style testing pool around January 15th, either. I think that went well, but if it’s there, it should be optional.

To add: I’d love if this Comp encourages BOTH tech-novelty AND stories. I mean: the regular puzzler is OK, but I’d like to see people invest in storytelling and trying to use the medium at its best for this purpose. Don’t know if a cross-breed prize is needed, just a pointer that, ok, we like puzzles and we like stories, but we’d like to see both used to sustain each other. Don’t know if I made myself clear…

This is a great idea, and thank you for volunteering! Some thoughts along with everyone else:

I agree with Marco here. Even if someone starts working on the game now, that’s not so much extra time to develop it (it seems to me), especially leaving time for testing; and personally I tend to have little chunks of time spread over months to code rather than being able to crunch, so even generous time limits like this one can sometimes be hard for me to meet.

[rant=egregious rambling]Though part of that is just being bad at organizing my time. (And what might be most likely to happen for me is that I might spend some time messing around on another project, my RuinJam game in case you want an indication of how I do with short-term deadlines, and see how much of that code I can repurpose for something I start on Dec. 1.)

On the other hand you don’t want anyone dropping their magnum opus they’ve been working on for years into this, and anyone who starts early will miss out on the theme. Hmm.[/rant]

Well, judging by my peripheral involvement with a minicomp, you might get a lot more games than you’re bargaining for! I guess if it’s a problem you can reserve the right to lower the cap in this particular case.


I’d be a bit concerned that (if there are a lot of authors) this could take the air out of the discussion of the comp a bit. On the other hand a simple “Don’t be obnoxious” rule might not be enough to keep things non-obnoxious. (Similar things might be said about the start deadline.)

SO MUCH YES. I’d even like to see a bit more of a testing period (and perhaps a later deadline to accommodate it?), particularly given that really good parsers seem like they need more testing.

Thanks again Carolyn! This should be great!

My hope is that this event will encourage people to try parser for the first time, as well as bringing out the old hands.

That’s why I think an official starting point is a good idea. It helps make the playing field relatively level. If someone’s been coding away on something for the last 2 years and drops it into this competition, it’s going to blow away everyone else in a way that doesn’t seem right for a mid-size comp.

With that said, I can see why people would want a bit more room. Maybe the starting point should be Nov 1 instead of Dec 1? That way people can hit the ground running after Ectocomp.

Also, I like the idea of a dedicated testing period! I don’t want to organize playtesting swaps directly myself, but people could coordinate on a forum thread to make that happen. Maybe there could be a “first draft” due on Feb 1, and then a “final draft” due on Feb 16, to borrow the ShuffleComp model.

I like everything about this.

I think that’s fair. I’d like to be pedantic on what coding means.

I’ve written story notes on a game I want to do. It’s been rattling in my brain for a year or so. I haven’t written any actual Inform code, because I figured it’d be tough, but I’ve written a lot of things I want to try. I’m wondering if this is technically okay? The game isn’t quite appropriate for IFComp, but it’s a bit more than SpeedIF, so it’d be fun to start.

I’d be willing to do whatever to help a testing pool. I thought it was fun even though I didn’t have the time to write a game.

Is this true? We’ve never tried to line up games on the basis of development time, except for the very smallest (SpeedIF/EctoComp).

Some people start development for an IFComp game in September, some in July, some at the end of the previous IFComp.

As far as I’m concerned, the more time given to write and test a game, the better. Nov. 1 to Feb. 15 is great, especially given that Christmas holidays are in there. I don’t think we need to worry about games being too long.

I think that encouraging some kind of parser-fiddling may be a good idea, too, or at least games that take advantage of the parser format, rather than games with a minimal parser that could have easily used a hyperlinked interface instead.


Would parser-fiddling fit into the Technical category? (And if not, what would the Technical category be for?)


…to be fair, I don’t know for sure. And you’re certainly right about the varying windows; my IFComp games have varied from 2 months of development to over 2 years of development.

I still think a finite window will be more encouraging to people who haven’t written parser games before.

I was thinking Technical would be for “How well did you code this game?” - most importantly, a measure of buggy vs. unbuggy, but it could also incorporate whether the author did anything extra-cool with the parser or the game engine’s capabilities.

Polish vs. flair, maybe? But that means one more category, which could be confusing…

I suppose you could honour-system this, but the traditional way to encourage people to respect that window is to offer a theme when the coding period begins. Not sure that would work here.

The ghost of Best Use of Medium haunts us yet.

Actually, I was planning to offer a theme (and a prize for Best Use of Theme), to encourage this - see the OP. But I wasn’t planning to disqualify entries that didn’t use it.

I see a trend of more speedIF-like entries in IF comp mostly carried by the rise of web games. In 2013 some Ectocomp entries surmountend a lot of IF comp entries for my opinion in both sections, parser and web games. Okay, it’s not a good idea to compare tailes of Gaussian judgement distributions, but I think it’s a legal thought for future to separate web and parser games in several sections to allow better comparson and judgement. I really don’t like it, but that would be a good way to construct a general principle of equality of arms.