Should next year's IF Comp allow intra-comp updates?

Just for fun and to play a little devil’s advocate, I thought I’d create a poll to see what the overall consensus is about this year’s rule change. I know it’s not a black and white answer, but that’s the answer I’d like to see. [emote]:)[/emote]

I voted yes; in my opinion the prospect of better games is worth more than some notion of correct competition.


I voted no for… well, lots of reasons. It seems like cheating to me to be able to update your game during the competition, a bit like handing your exam papers in, getting them marked and then changing your answers because the ones you initially gave weren’t good enough.

If this rule does stay in next year, I hope it’s handled a bit better than the haphazard way it’s been done this year (I’m looking at Peter Pears’ comment in another thread which highlights perfectly why this new rule is a bad one). I also hope the organiser doesn’t decide to spring another surprise rule on entrants after the competition has begun.

I do this in some of the classes I teach. Revision in response to criticism is a good thing!

I voted “yes”, but with some pain in my stomach.

On the one side, it spoils the competition thought. I have no experience here, but I imagine a shitstorm of transcripts and hints raining down onto the author, and not everyone has the time to work down on it.

On the other side, it improves the games, and that’s worth a lot. And then, can the fixing of some glitches in game A spoil the experience of playing game B? Without the glitch game A is what the author wanted it to be and what he wanted to be rated. We know that programming isn’t the easiest thing in the world, and that beta testers are a rare good. I’d prefer the thought of having working games competing against each other, and not great games to get a low voting just because there was a bug the author didn’t find.

Theoratically intra-comp updates can be misused to prolong the deadline by providing a half-baked game and complete it while the competition runs. But I personally wouldn’t want to have the theoretical possibility of misuse dominate the competition rules.

Well, on a multiple choice exam–definitely. And it also depends on the goal of the exam/competition. For instance, in a standardized test situation, changing answers doesn’t work. But this sort of competition is about learning, and I think there are good threads on the authors’ board about that.

And if someone does come up with a great idea to add to their game during the competition, they really only robbed themselves by not taking care of things sooner. And I also feel that any game that -can- be seriously changed in a short time and be fully tested may not be a contender to begin with. Or that moving up a few places in the IFComp won’t be worth an author’s sanity. These things don’t create themselves–or lurch off in a new direction–overnight. Even minor changes can be mentally and physically exhausting.

One big thing that made me more comfortable is seeing that the graders do not have to accept the revised version. I think there are a lot of reviewers who’ve stated they won’t, explicitly, go for the latest version of a game. And that’s fair. A lot of them have still made great points. Authors seeking to improve, then, know that the best way is still to get it right the first time.

But I think the best thing for me, as an author, is that I didn’t feel helpless about flaws I, or others, found. I mean, details get lost. I’d love to see more of them added to certain other authors’ games and have one less reason for a writer to wait six weeks before fixing things. I think a lot of authors have felt there were things they could and should’ve done and are now fixing, because they don’t want to have to wait. They don’t seem to be doing so to place higher. It’s more “Oops, that was huge and it escaped, and I want to fix that.”

I’d be interested to see the correlations between # of updates and placings, or even the # of updates and standard deviations. If updates cause serious variance in how a game is ranked, or if they impact the bigger prizes, then that may be cause for concern.

If the organizers choose to keep this rule and let people know about it–and give general guidelines for how not to abuse this rule–I think that would help some new people get in. People who maybe aren’t looking to place high but who have good ideas and just realize all that could go wrong.

So, I think there are a lot of authors genuinely concerned with improving at a good pace, and I think this rule helps a lot with that. Though details need to be worked out.

Is “I know it’s not a black and white answer” an admission that the options you’re presenting constitute a false dichotomy? Maybe the new policy is a step forward or maybe it’s not, but even under the policy you’re not prevented from playing the games as originally released. Everyone who found out about the new rule had the opportunity to download that first batch of releases, play those exclusively, and in every meaningful way experience the competition as if the new rule did not exist.

My humble suggestion: let future comp rules explicitly state that no one by any means forbids an author to make updated versions of her entry and upload them wherever and whenever she considers (her own website or even the IF archive) during voting time, so we acomplish the ideal of encouraging the completion of better IF works based on feedback received during the comp, but make clear that the ones to be judged and scored are definitively the ones submitted to the IF Comp before the deadline, so we avoid potential unfair situations.

I’ve got a firm intention to go IF comp next year, and that would be the rules which I personally would feel more comfortable with. [emote]:)[/emote]

Well yes, I suppose so. It would be naive to think we either had to have these updates, or not, without giving good consideration to alternatives that everyone is happy with. And given the split so far, that’s where my money is.

Ooh, 100th post.

Although I can see the wisdom of the updates and I only admire the authors who had the stamina to consistently improve their games, my personal vote is No.

I will accept and follow these new rules, if they persist; I’m not going to restrict my judging to the original versions. If I ever were to enter the Comp, I might update for a big game-breaking bug or accidental omission, but otherwise I think I would be more stressed out than relieved by the fact that I can (and therefore probably should, not necessarily to be competitive but just in order to bring my best forward) improve my entry based on feedback during the judging period.

I’m also concerned about the standard deviation statistic becoming meaningless.

I voted yes because, well, I’m considering entering a game in that mentions other competing games. I’ll start with a placeholder,then add the games as the first update.

One suggestion beyond the yes/no–you could, in, allow the user to set an option:

prefer originals (should be default) vs prefer updates

Then the online links could point to an original or updated version, whether for download or play, based on that.

I think also it could be worthwhile (or would have been) to track whether the judge played the original or not. This would require some effort on the part of the judges, or perhaps on the site maintainers to mention when a game was last updated along with the voting. But we might be able to see how much updates during the comp actually affect scores–if we have a large enough sample size.

Well, I have no horse in the race apart from “I like to play the games eventually, and I prefer better games.” With that in mind, it’s an easy “yes.” The arguments in favor of the updates leading to better games have been very solid (especially the “intra-comp updates are simply more likely to happen, if allowed, than post-comp updates” one).

I can respect that those interested in the competition part of the competition might feel differently, but I think all of the nightmare scenarios folks have come up with to describe potential abuses fall into two main categories, the Self-Defeating (where any “cheat” seems more likely to hurt a game’s chances than improve them) and the Absurdly Theoretical (ranging from “anyone who could cheat like that could make a better game to begin with” to “that puts a lot of faith in variables the entrant would have no control over”).

The only exception I saw was Zarf’s “release delay” trick, where an incomplete game could be released with a deliberate (later-fixed) “bug” making the unfinished parts unreachable, giving the entrant extra time past the entry deadline to finish the game. But I can also imagine a couple of ways this could be rendered a non-issue.

I don’t have a strong gut reaction.

I think that the most conspicuous update in this year’s comp makes it pretty clear that making major changes during the comp is unlikely to help you much. So I don’t think there’s a significant risk in that quarter.

On the other hand, I do think that there’s potential for mixed messages about the nature of IF Comp and what’s expected of its entries. At least some games in the comp could reasonably be interpreted as open alpha versions rather than a best attempt at a finished product. I know that there’s been a fair amount of talk in the community about how it’d be easier to create good games if the development process was more open earlier on, with more focus on rolling updates and a long public beta before reaching 1.0 (as is common elsewhere in indie games); but I’m not sure how I feel about the idea of using the comp that way. (And from a player’s view, reviewing 38 games at version 1.0 is a very different kind of experience to testing 38 games in alpha.)

On the other hand, the comp has always been used in different ways by different authors, and I don’t know how likely a shift in expectations of that scale would be; there’d still be incentive to produce polished versions.

Life is full of deadlines, it even ends with one. If you people can’t cope with the IF comp having a deadline, how do you cope with life?

I voted no. I download the complete package of competition games as soon as they are released, and I play from those. I am not willing to keep checking for new versions. I also think the IF Comp schedule is well enough known in advance that game authors should be able to stick to it.

The only case I can see for new versions is if the comp organiser has made a dire mistake with the released files for a game. But that’s it, and is usually fixed very quickly after 1st October.

And I am judging the versions of the games I downloaded.

I’m also very concerned about games changing names. I struggled to vote on one game because the voting page showed the new name for a game, not the 1st October name.

Leaving aside your other concerns, nothing in the current rules prevents you from doing this (obviously, since you’re doing it), and I don’t think anyone is even discouraging you from doing it. In fact, even if you don’t download the games in a lump, the original versions seem to remain available on the IF Archive (filed under “original”). If you play online, then I suppose you have to play the updated version, but I don’t know how much the “play everything online” faction overlaps with the folks who want to play the original versions. (Mostly because I’m the only person who I’m sure plays everything he can online, and I like updates.)

Mostly this is just a pretext for complaining that the poll choices are slightly misleading. The alternative to allowing updates isn’t “let us play the original versions”; it’s “make us play the original versions.”

Doesn’t it defeat the point of the IFComp being a competition if authors are allowed to update their games during the comp? In the spirit of competition, we should all be on an equal basis, whereas authors whose games are reviewed early on have the opportunity to fix their games in time for people who came to the competition late to play them.

The argument that it allows for better games to be produced is a valid one, but isn’t that the whole idea behind testing and beta-testing? There’s nothing to stop people updating their games after the comp is over once all the reviews have been written and all the feedback received, the way it’s always been done in the past.

Dear God, let’s hope so.

[notices the mic is on]

I mean: oh, good heavens! That would be terrible.