Public Service Announcement about using timed text in your IFComp entries

Originally from 2020, but it’s as true today as when it was written:



ah… darn, and fair point.
I implemented a mechanism to speed or slow the timed text, but alas, I will brace myself for said reviews.


[Considers a joke game that starts with polling the player on various preferences (timed text, undo, mazes, etc.) and then specifically caters the game to the opposite of the player’s preferences in an engineered attempt to optimize the bad game experience. Surely, it is nearly as hard to intentionally get last place as it is to get first?]


It can vary from person to person! I don’t like slow text personally, and I know a few others who don’t, but if it contributes to the game and the game is short, it’s not awful.

I think the best rule of thumb is that if you personally have to build in cheat codes to skip through the text when you were making it then it’s probably too slow. If you were fine with the slow text every time you played then it’s probably fine for others.

That’s true! For instance, “The Absolute Worst IF Game in History” is only the second-worst game on IFDB (according to the sorting algorithm). They were for a few years but they’ve sadly fallen behind in recent times.


It’s worth mentioning that timed text can be effective instead of merely “not awful” – even @mathbrush conceded that the slow-text interlude in A Matter of Heist Urgency was “actually really cool.”


Douglas Adams’s Bureaucracy does something along these lines, though it’s less meta about it.


In which way? The maze? (I loved the maze, BTW.)


Huh, looks like now the worst one is this one:

I dunno, from the reviews, it seems bad, but not “literally the worst thing on IFDB” bad. Not going to play to find out, though!


Oops! I’ve been out of touch with the IF community for a while and had no idea this was a thing.
I’ve just submitted a game that relies heavily on timed text.
But hey, there’s no such thing as bad publicity, right? :smiley:

In all seriousness, my decision to include timed text was carefully thought-out, and I honestly think it would have been impossible to convey the essence of my game without it.
I tried my best not to make gratuitous use of it, though, and generally kept it confined to the most relevant passages!

Testers did find it a little too slow at first so I tried to speed it up, but I have no idea if I hit the right balance.
I’m really excited to find out what people think of it – both the good and the bad (hopefully at least some good!)


People who judge games based on a checklist of pet peeves will hate it! Other people, it’s tough to say. They’ll have to figure it out for themselves.


I haven’t played it but I’m confident I can make something worse.


[Smells a WorstIFEvahJam 2023]


How do we use the sorting algorithm? Is it just, search for rating:1-1.3 and sort lowest to highest?

It looks like it got 2 2-star reviews back in 2022, while The Lift only got 1. 2/30 > 1/26.

The winning way through The Lift is … well, let’s just say a fellow comp entrant that year told the author jokingly “You know what you should put in? That!” and then later “WHAT? You put that in? Oh no, I was just joking!”

“That” is not illegal, and it’s the best I can say about it. But it’s the sort of thing that just attracts auto-1’s.

Good artwork though.

I think there are things that can be done with it. We should take those chances. I don’t like when a work delays a lot as if to say “pay attention to me!” especially with so many other games to judge. It feels like that person who keeps making meaningful pauses in conversation.

But I think timed text at critical passages does alert us to: hey, wait, read this more carefully. So it’s interesting to see how people use it to direct the reader’s attention, now we know the general pitfalls.

I had an idea, too, but the problem is it’s much funnier as an idea than if I actually put it out there.

The climax was the player meeting up with the author and asking the author “Dude, you seem too cool to write nerdy ol’ text adventures. What gives?”


I had a bad idea some time ago to use timed text as a disincentive. Like, go ahead and try to stay and save more children from the burning children’s hospital if you like, but the more smoke you breathe in, the more disoriented the descriptions and the slower the text.


I don’t think this is a bad idea. I had a similar idea about using response lag to represent a low-gravity environment. The thing is, very small amounts of lag can have an effect without necessarily making the game insufferable or unplayable. I think something on the order of 500 milliseconds would get annoying fast, and 100 milliseconds might be hard to notice at all, but in between there you could create some cool and subtle effects. These are very rough guesses.

Anyone who’s played EarthBound knows that with really fine control of text speed you can create amazing tension and humor and personality by timing text on a character-by-character, fraction-of-a-second-by-fraction-of-a-second basis.


Pentiment has awesome timed text. It’s set in medieval Europe, and all text appears as if it’s being handwritten by a (very fast) scribe. The initial capitals of God and Jesus are left open, and then added in red ink once the rest of the text is finished. And there are spelling errors in the text, which get rubbed out and fixed. It looks great, it’s totally thematic, and it all happens fast enough that your reading isn’t impaired.


As long as the text doesn’t disappear after a timer, I’m fine with it. I am a very slow reader so automatic transitions between blocks of text infuriate me, especially because once I know it’s on a timer, I completely stop comprehending anything I’m reading, and there might as well be no text at all. No exaggeration.

But if its arrival is on a timer, then good luck making it too slow for me.

I’m only salty because some IF game got heavily recommended to me and seems to be exactly my kind of game, but it uses timers to remove text, and I literally did not experience anything in the game because of it. I could not tell you what happened, and I was so confused.

Out of respect for the game’s author, I’m not posting the title here.


LOL, pinkunz !

please note that the “pause for effect” with programmatically placed “press a key” can easily have the opposite effect, esp. if the pause has indeed, a good effect on player :slight_smile:

Best regards from Italy,
dott. Piergiorgio.


Let me just say the IFComp game I rated highest last year used timed text in what I thought was a deeply effective, thematically perfect way, and was in fact a major contributor to my high rating.

I will also say, in terms of written reviews I was in the minority, perhaps a minority of 1.

And I will further say the player-enjoyment gulf between perfect application and not QUITE perfect application is vast. I guess my advice is “Break any rule you like, but do it REALLY REALLY WELL.”



I have spent actual hours deciding on line spaces before and after a “press any key” prompt. Add, compile, remove, compile, etc. However, there are some people that say “any key” prompts are wrong, no matter when, why, or how! But I like to live on the edge