Shufflecomp Signup

ShuffleComp: IF Mixtape 2014
Building The Least Coherent Playlist Ever

CURRENT STATUS: DONE. Results at this location (and further discussion here); find the games here.

ShuffleComp is an interactive fiction game jam / minicomp. After the manner of Apollo 18+20, participants will write games based on music tracks - the difference here is that, rather than working to cover an entire album, participants will each submit a list of songs, receive a different shuffled-up list in return - much like the SpeedIF Jacket events - and from those, pick a song to act as a prompt for writing a game.

That sounds more complicated than it is. Short version: you send me (magadog, gmail) a list of eight songs. I shuffle all the submitted lists up and send everyone a random selection. You pick one song from that selection and you make a game inspired by it; then you submit it to me, it’s published under a pseudonym, and we vote for the best games.


By April 9, choose no more than eight songs and email the list to me. (magadog, gmail.)

  • The songs must be available online, in public, in full and for free. (Free here entails ‘no signup required’.) Tracks available on YouTube are strongly preferred. Include a URL.
  • Your selection should not include more than two songs per artist.
  • It’ll make my life a little simpler if you use the format ARTIST - SONG TITLE - URL.

With this, you should also submit eight (or so) pseudonyms for other participants to use. These pseudonyms should not be the names or handles of existing game authors, because that would be super rude. But otherwise do what you want. When you write your game, you’ll (at least initially) do so under a pseudonym.

Email your selection to me, together with appropriate links (magadog, gmail.) I’ll shuffle the results up and send a playlist to each participant.
Lists will be handed out by the end of April 10. The deadline for submitting your game will be May 1. After that, there’ll be a short testing period; final versions must be submitted by May 12, and the games will be published shortly thereafter. (There is no requirement to use all of this time; if you write your game in an afternoon, that’s fine.)

FAQ and detailed rules below!


Can I submit songs even if I don’t want to make a game?
Technically, there’s nothing stopping you, since you can always drop out. But that’s not really in the spirit of the thing.

So this is the compromise: if you’re not going to make a game, you can submit songs and tell me that you’re not authoring. Those songs will go in a reserve pool, to be used if full participants don’t submit enough songs, or if people show up late and want to be assigned songs, or similar emergencies. Your honesty in this matter is appreciated.

What is acceptable content for submitted songs?
The basic assumption, in this as in most IF events, is that participants will be mature enough to cope with adult themes and language. That said, use some common sense in making your selections: you don’t know who’s going to be listening to them. I enjoy listening to Celph Titled or The Prophet Capleton once in a while; but I’m aware that, for a substantial number of people, that music would be pretty much the equivalent of a flaming bag of dogshit on their doorstep. Be considerate in your choices. I’ll include warnings with any seriously objectionable content when I send the lists out; but the fact that I’m doing this doesn’t get you off the hook.

What else should I consider when choosing songs?
None of the following are hard-and-fast rules, and you can ignore all of it if you please.

What material does this offer an author? Are there lyrics? A narrative? Do they seem like something an author could work with? Does it seem like something that lends itself to an IF treatment? (I’m a big fan of Madvillain’s Figaro, but it’d take a very special author to turn that horny rhyme-association stoner-dream into a game.)

Is this likely to be new to anyone? Treat this as a mix intended to introduce a friend to some new music. If you think it’s more likely than not that your randomly selected recipient will already know the song, think twice. If you go with a very well-known artist, maybe don’t pick their best-known songs. At least part of the fun of this should be about creative response to new things.

Clarification! A number of people have expressed anxiety about whether their songs will be insufficiently obscure and hipsterish. That’s not the idea here - we’re trying to share things we like, not have a biggest-hipster contest. And, yeah, fields of exposure vary A Lot. If an artist doesn’t show up on, say,, you probably don’t need to worry about it. Even if they do, as long as you don’t pick their best-known songs from their biggest albums, no problem. And even then, you’re totally free to ignore this advice.

In summary: there is no guarantee that any of the songs you submit will be turned into games. The more considerate you are of your recipients, the better your chances will be.

Will people know who submitted which songs?
By default, yes; each song will come with a byline saying who submitted it. If you’d prefer a different arrangement, tell me when you submit them.

I only like three songs in the whole world. Can I still play?
Yes! It says at most eight songs, a set which technically includes zero songs (or negative songs, if you can work out how to arrange that). The reserve pool will fill in the gaps.

What’s the deal with these pseudonyms?
It’s not meant to be entirely serious; if you prefer, think of it more as a silly-masks-at-a-party thing. The original motivation was so that voters won’t preferentially play games based on author name-recognition, but if this doesn’t work perfectly it’s not a big deal. At the end we’ll reveal who was who.

(If you wish to sit out the reveal and remain pseudonymous forever, let me know. Or just don’t tell me who you are in the first place.)


I want to make a game in a certain platform. Is that cool?
The only restriction on platforms is that the game you submit must be playable as-is, not reliant on being hosted on a specific server or website. (This doesn’t forbid hosting elsewhere - but if your game breaks if hosted on the IF Archive or played offline, that’s a problem.)

I found out about this after the sign-up period! Can I still take part?
Yes! Drop me an email and I’ll see what I can work out.

One of the songs I received is unavailable in my region.
If you can’t find it elsewhere after a quick search, contact me and I’ll provide replacements from the reserve pool.

Can I do that for songs if I hate the music or find its content objectionable?
No - that’s a matter of choice, not access. (And you don’t need to like a song to write a game about it.)

What is your shuffling method?
I’ll deal out each player’s selection like a hand of cards - this makes it easier for me to ensure that participants don’t get their own songs, and also that each participant gets songs from as wide a range of other people as possible. I may tweak it a bit to deal with any obvious redundancies.

What happens with all these songs I’m not using?
Someone’s always going to show up late to the party. With that in mind, you can return tracks if and when you’re certain that you aren’t going to make a song about them. Returns are made by sending me an email with the subject ‘Returns’ and a list of the tracks. These will be added to the reserve pool of tracks that can be offered to late arrivals.

Why can’t we just compile a list of songs and then have people claim tracks from the entire list? That worked fine in Cover Stories.
You can take in a cover image at a glance. Scrolling through a page of them shouldn’t take you more than five minutes. The median length of a song in my music library is 3:49. Assume we get, I dunno, twelve intended participants, each submitting eight songs: that’d add up to over six hours of music. Even if you only listen through each track halfway through on average, and even if you don’t need to replay any songs to make your decision, that’s a prohibitive time commitment.

I don’t want people to waste time on paralysis-of-choice. Constraints are fruitful.

Can I make a game inspired by two or more of the songs?

Is it cool to use lyrics sites to figure out what a song’s meant to be about?
Sure. (But mondegreens are cool too.)

Can I make several different games, each inspired by a different song?
Yes. Use a different pseudonym for each one. (Personally, I think it’s vastly preferable to focus your time on a single game. But your mileage may vary.)

Can I just throw out the songs if I don’t like them and make something based on some other song of my own choice?
You can do that yourself at any time without needing a special event for it. I can’t really stop you, but it’s totally not in the spirit of the event.

I hate all the pseudonyms I received. Can I make up my own one?
Yes, as long as it’s not your own name or a handle that you use elsewhere.

Something like 90% of songs are about, like, love and relationships and sex and stuff. Is this just an underhand scheme to trick us into writing romance games?

Can I ignore everything in the actual song and just riff on the title?
You can take the inspiration element however you want. It can be an interpretation of or response to the song’s lyrics, a reflection of its mood and atmosphere, a leap of inspiration from a single lyric or the title, or whatever other connection you can think of.

How does copyright and fair use work with all of this?
It should go without saying that you shouldn’t include copyrighted songs, full lyrics or associated copyrighted materials (like album covers) in your actual game without permission. (That’s the big flaw with this event, really.) Beyond that, there’s no rule against references and inspiration.

What about my rights to the game I make?
By submitting a game to this event, you’re granting the organiser and the IF Archive the perpetual non-exclusive right to distribute that game for free. Other than this, you may release your game under any license.


In the IF community there are two main kinds of events. On the one hand, there are open-voting, numerically rated events like IF Comp: these attract a lot of reviews and are fairly high-pressure, and the expectation is that you should be putting in your very best work. On the other hand, there are game-jam type events with no voting - minicomps and speedIFs. These are typically light-hearted, fun events with no expectation of producing anything of value, and typically attract little by way of reviews or feedback.

I think that voting and attention are pretty closely linked: if you want a relatively higher volume of attention, then you have to accept a tougher standard of criticism along with it. That seems like a totally reasonable trade-off to me, but I think that it’d be a Good Thing if there were more intermediate points along this curve.

So what I’m going to do is have a sort of Best In Show vote.

  • Anyone can vote.
  • To vote, you’ll tell us which games you played and which you think deserve commendation. No score: just Yes, No or Not Played.
  • You may vote for your own game, or a game you tested, if you think it deserves it. If you do this, you should also vote for at least two other games.
  • The highest-scoring 30% of games will be announced as Commended entries. (30% of submitted entries, rounded to the nearest integer; if there is a tie at the cutoff point, all tied games receive a commendation.)
  • Aside from this, the results of voting will not be announced; the relative score or rank of entries will be known only to the vote-counter.
  • Writing a review for a game counts as an extra Yes vote for it. There’ll be a thread to call attention to these reviews, and hopefully a way to submit reviews anonymously through the voting form. (It is very bad form to review your own game.)
  • There are no restrictions on discussion during the voting period. (It’s polite not to post spoilers where people can’t avoid seeing them, of course.) Authors can talk about their game wherever and however they want.

The votes will be sorted by an impartial vote-sifter; the top 30% of games (round up) will be declared Commended entries. Other than this, vote totals will not be released.

Even if the review says “not recommended?”

I’m not arguing with this rule, but I don’t understand it. Could you clarify?

It’s kind of an experiment. (Minicomps are good for that sort of thing.)

The general idea behind this rule is to make Shufflecomp feel like a less high-pressure event than IF Comp or similar events, while still encouraging some feedback. Short version: if you don’t want to vote for a game, don’t write a review. Or save your review until after the voting period.

Negative reviews can be useful, important and constructive - they’d better, I’ve written enough of them - but it’s also valuable to have some events where authors can release games without signing up for an ass-kicking. This event is meant to be a happy medium between the intense pressure of IF Comp and the low expectations of speedIF.

That makes sense to me. Thanks for the perspective.

Does this mean players can’t play a game that’s hosted, or just that it must be possible to play the game un-hosted? Some platforms reach a much wider audience if hosted.

The latter. It can be hosted wherever else you want, as long as it can be hosted in a playable form on the IF Archive too.

This strikes me as divergent from the spirit of the comp and I really hope nobody does it. [emote]:P[/emote]
If a game written this way got featured and I voted for it, I would feel pretty cranky.

Absolutely, though it’s not something that I’m willing to police very vigorously.

(That phrasing is reliant on a special IF sense of ‘feel free’, I think possibly derived from Infocom culture: when someone comes up to a dev with a great idea for a game, or a big difficult-to-implement feature, or whatever, ‘feel free’ was a marginally more polite version of ‘sure, fuck off and do it yourself; I’m not putting in any work on it. Your funeral.’ Possibly I should rephrase a little.)

Also, I am glad to see from your pseudonym submissions thus far that y’all are suitably deranged.

One question: Are we not allowed to enter in songs for the reserve pool if we plan on entering a game ourselves? Because I got, like, ten “bonus tracks”, and I’ll deal if I can’t add 'em all in, but this may cause me to reshuffle my list around.

Sure, you can throw reserve pool songs at me if you want. (I don’t know how many people will actually want to go reserve pool, and if the reserve pool isn’t fairly deep then it doesn’t work very well.) You only get another eight, though.

Good to hear! I can easily shave off a couple songs from the bonus tracks. One flat out just wouldn’t work without snippets from the song in question anyway.

I may, if I can’t overcome my paralysing fear that people will see my playlist and realise how ignorant of music I am and how terrible my taste is. (Also, more seriously: a lot of the music I listen to is instrumental, which makes it less suitable for this sort of thing. In any case, I haven’t managed to come up with a eight-song-long playlist yet.)

I think I’ll have to throw in one or two popular songs too.

The following will be going out with every shuffled-up playlist email:

To expand: a potluck dinner is about showing up, having a community meal, and contributing something to the table. You have no way of anticipating the tastes of several dozen people, so bring something that you have, that you enjoy, and that you don’t expect everyone else to bring. You’re broadening the variety of the table - if everybody brings devilled eggs you don’t have much of a meal. And you’re not forcing food on anybody: if someone knows they don’t like the thing you brought, they don’t have to have any. And if they don’t know but discover they don’t like it, they’re free to stop after a nibble.

(I’d never had jello salad! Totally not my culture. Turns out I don’t care for it much. But I still wouldn’t know that without having been to potlucks, so my world is expanded.)

Case in point: at this point I have twelve intents, with ninety-six songs, and only one case where two people chose the same artist.

Also, you don’t have to come up with eight songs in order to enter. The rules say ‘no more than eight’. That’s another thing that the reserve pool is for.

Your taste is not terrible! I have opinions on this. (General opinions, not you-directed opinions.)

[rant]Music is a matter of taste. There isn’t really such a thing as “good taste” or “bad taste” - just “taste like yours” and “taste unlike yours”.

If a lot of people like the same songs as you do, they’ll probably think you have “good taste”. But that’s not really a thing. It just means you’re better equipped to recommend new music to those people and that you’re more likely to enjoy listening to music with those people.

…I have really strong opinions on this - mostly derived from years of listening to a few bad apples in the Rock Band community complain about “bad music”. If it’s poorly executed, it might be bad music, but otherwise, it’s just music one person doesn’t personally like. That’s OK, but adding a value judgement reflects far more on the judge than the music in question… and telling someone else “your taste in music is bad” reflects far, FAR more on the judge. And what it reflects is not good.[/rant]