Spring Thing '16 post-mortem

I’d love to beat Kasparov. But not by means of Kasparov getting disqualified because his mobile phone goes off.

I don’t think I misjudged anything. I actually expected Taghairm to do worse in the rankings, although I consider it my best game. It’s a good example to show how some games are not entered into IFComp to vie for the top spots. I didn’t expect Midnight. Swordfight. to place as well as it did either, for that matter.

This doesn’t really apply to Spring Thing, but since the thread has moved to discussing competitions in general and my rankings in particular, I figured I should say something.

We might be getting mixed up. The context for the Kasparov thing is “People are trying to better themselves, to strive to do better than their opponents because they admire their opponents so much and want to be even better”. This is a completely different mindset than “beating the opponents on a technicality”, which is what you bring up.

I see how your point relates to the overall updates thing, but bringing up this particular quote and example might just make things muddier. Vlaviano was using that comparison in a specific context, talking about something else. (and if I’m wrong about this, things are getting muddier still!)

FWIW, the updates thing is more like Kasparov (or anyone, really) asking for a do-over because three moves ago he should have moved a pawn instead of a knight.

EDIT - It appears that, in chess, illegal moves penalise the person who was to start the illegal move (by means of the timer), and 3 illegal moves seem to indicate forfeit. If you compare the illegal moves to the bugs… but again, this is NOT a chess tournament, but something lighter.




If during a game it is found that an illegal move, including failing to meet the requirements of the promotion of a pawn or capturing the opponent’s king, has been completed, the position immediately before the irregularity shall be reinstated. If the position immediately before the irregularity cannot be determined the game shall continue from the last identifiable position prior to the irregularity. The clocks shall be adjusted according to Article 6.13. The Articles 4.3 and 4.6 apply to the move replacing the illegal move. The game shall then continue from this re-instated position.


After the action taken under Article 7.4.a, for the first two illegal moves by a player the arbiter shall give two minutes extra time to his opponent in each instance; for a third illegal move by the same player, the arbiter shall declare the game lost by this player. However, the game is drawn if the position is such that the opponent cannot checkmate the player’s king by any possible series of legal moves.[/rant]

EDIT - This is interesting. To robinjohnson, being disqualified due to bugs is like being disqualified because the phone went off - unfair, unrelated to the competition, a stiff technicality, something totally not your fault. To vlaviano (and myself) being disqualified due to bugs is like being penalised for your actions, for something that IS your fault.

Could this be what’s really at the heart of this divide? Bugs ARE the fault of the author, there’s no way around that. I know we live in an age where everyone find excuses to exculpate themselves and everyone else, but occasionally you do have to learn to say “Damn, that’s my fault” and accept it so you can then proceed to correct it. Saying “Damn it, that’s totally not my fault!” is not productive, especially when what you really mean is “That’s totally my fault, but everyone else has the same fault so I refuse to take the blame for it!”.

“Blame” is a strong word. Again, in the IF comps things are much lighter! No such strong emotions as blame, authors are not to blame for bugs. They are, however, responsible for them. We can work around that fact by acknowledging that bugs have a way ot creeping in… but we can’t pretend that it’s not a fact. FWIW.

EDIT - For the umpteenth time, though, the Spring Thing has conciously moved AWAY from a comp mold to be something less competitive. The ranking is mostly ceremonial, just for a bit of fun. So no gross injustice is being perpetrated if there ARE updates.

…incidently, there is similarly no gross injustice if there are NO updates allowed. It cuts both ways! Either it’s all just for fun, and it’s not a real comp, and therefore it doesn’t matter whether or not you have bugs… or it’s all perfectly serious, and the bugs will be a part of your finished product just like you were in a baking competition and you left some burnt raisins in your cake that you couldn’t scoop out before presenting your cake to the judge.

I’m going to bed now. I know I’m arguing, and I know I’m making some sense, but I no longer know what I’m arguing for or against.

Let me just offer a counterpoint here: Punishing people as a teaching tool is asinine. Nobody is getting massively rewarded for participating in IF, and very few people are being tangibly rewarded at all. When someone joins a competition with a broken, unplayable build of an otherwise working game, and then can’t fix it because of a no-updating rule, they are enormously more likely to just decide this isn’t for them and go do something else with their time than to learn something meaningful other than “don’t mistakenly publish broken builds of your project”, which is something I would assume everyone knows yet it happens anyway because people make honest mistakes. Furthermore, I’m pretty sure whatever is there to be learned will be learned anyway; it’s not like releasing a game with bugs and then updating it has no cost or isn’t noticed. If your interest is in having a vibrant community of people produce IF for you to play, then no-update rules are not in your interest.

The idea that Taghairm was a failure or a mistake is insane to me.

I think this whole discussion gets down to the fundamental rift in this community that stems from the fact that some people have a narrow, limiting idea of what IF is and should be, and how it should be evaluated; and those people seem to believe that every institution in the community should serve the elevation of that narrow ideal (ie, “polished” traditional parser games built by hobbyists with copious amounts of time to invest into them) over all other iterations of the medium. This elitist, rarefied view of the medium precludes my participation and that of a lot of people whose work I think is important and valuable; so if I seem to care excessively about this issue, I would point out that this issue is part of a broader context. In such a context, I cannot help but see some currents of this discussion as being less about bugs and more about who should be allowed to participate, under what circumstances, and with what kinds of work.

Anyone who is capable of producing a work of IF is allowed to participate. With the inclusion of choice-based works under the umbrella of IF, this is a larger group than ever before. If this still excludes people, then the solution is to teach them how to write IF, not to redefine IF so that it includes PDF files. Is it our duty to accept historical romance novels in a hard science fiction competition, because some people’s lack of scientific education would otherwise preclude them from participating?

Maybe you’re right, but I wouldn’t know, because I didn’t get that far, and therein lies the failure. If you claim that that was the point, then I’ll claim that it’s easy to evoke disgust and drive someone away from your game. What’s admirable to me is evoking disgust while compelling someone to keep playing.

[Emphasis mine]

I should point out that you have opposed and continue to oppose said inclusion. I should also point out that there is a gulf between being nominally allowed in and being actually welcomed; and that a lot of the positions taken by certain members of this community in this and other discussions show remarkable lack of interest in transposing that gulf, with regards to authors from the Twine world, authors with a non-technical background, authors from less privileged backgrounds in general…

Okay, I would really like this not to turn Nth repetition of the argument about how everyone is arguing about how everyone else is arguing about inclusivity. And the definition of IF. Let’s not.

The topic of game updates during the voting period – both Spring Thing and IFComp – is plenty for one thread.

vlaviano wrote:

No. The competition is fair if it tests entrants even-handedly. Being ineffective for some purpose is not the same as being unfair.

This is not just semantics. You have repeatedly invoked fairness, “the spirit of fair competition”, and justice – and argued as if everyone who disagrees with you is pushing for an unfair IFComp. It doesn’t fly that way.

All sorts of contests, competitions, and ranked festivals exist in the world. You can say “It’s like a baking competition and the dishes should be plated as served!” Or I can say “It’s like the World Series and teams should be allowed to train and even change their lineup between games!” Really, these are both terrible analogies. IFComp is its own thing. Currently it is a thing where game updates are allowed. That means that updating your game is fair play. That’s all.

I kindly want to remind what things we should be discussing here:

  • Non-digital games in Spring Thing (Back Garden and Main Festival)
  • The Alumni’s Choice ribbon.
  • More pro-active outreach.
  • Publishing the estimated playtimes.
  • Rules on author speech.
  • Rules on in-comp updates.

P.S. Oh, and this is a thread about Spring Thing, if anyone’s confused. Not IFComp.

Well, if everyone has the same fault, it’s probably something universal, so yeah, it’s not really something you need to take blame over. It’s like beating yourself up for contributing to climate change because you’re exhaling carbon dioxide. Bugs fall into the same category–even extensively tested projects that whole teams work on full-time for years have bugs in them. Most competitions entries are done for free by one person in their spare time. You’re not ever going to be able to teach people to just not have bugs next time, because they do just happen.

Maybe it’s a difference in what skills we’d like to see the competition test? To me, being responsive to player feedback and fixing bugs as quickly as possible is part of being a good game creator, so for me “are you paying attention to your players’ experiences? are you able to fix problems that crop up?” is a valid metric to judge people on, while “is there a fatal bug somewhere?” is mostly just a matter of chance.

Well, switching to the other side of the argument, that’s not necessarily true. I don’t know of any examples for games, but the Heartbleed bug is an example of a bug that was out there for a long time before anyone noticed, and was important. For another example, I think Marco told me that I was the first person to take a particular path through the endgame of Andromeda Apocalypse, pretty late in the competition; if it had been bugged the bug would’ve been discovered late, but might have been significant.

I disagree with this for basically the same reason. Bugs can wind up pretty well-hidden, so that they still remain after you test them a lot. Part of it depends on what your testers do, and your testers are people working for free and doing you a favor, so it’s hard to ask too much of them.

If you’re talking about “a competition” in your example, not the easy-going Spring Thing or IF Comp, then well, that’s how some people get weeded out at the beginning: they made a broken, unplayable build. The consequences are that the game is unplayable, and they suffer the consequences. If then they give up, then they weren’t cut out for the pressures of competition.

Again: the IF comps have a different mindset (I think that’s become pretty obvious in all of this discussion) where this kind of thinking isn’t productive. But you talked about “a competition”, and in “a competition” that’s what happens.

Blame really wasn’t the best word. “Responsibility” is probably closest. The author doesn’t program bugs in, but it is their responsibility to program them out.

But it IS necessary to take responsibility, or we’d all be pretending to ignore bugs because it’s such a way of life. The bugs going unpenalised and unchecked would result in buggier games.

Again, I’m not saying all games have to be 100% bug free, we’ve all agreed that extremely unlikely even without the pressures of the comp. But the bugs are a part of the competition entry, and the way we look at the bugs is fundamental to this update issue.

If we look at the bugs and say “These bugs are a problem. They are detracting from my enjoyment. The author is responsible for them, therefore they shall be penalised for them”, within that point of view we’re working towards a competition where people are judged by their initial entries and are encouraged to submit the best possible game at the very beginning. We’re also not being very forgiving (then again, how many players and reviewers are? The real world is a cruel place).

If we look at the bugs and say “I can overlook these bugs, it’s ok, every game has bugs, they really should be fixed but I can look past them” we’re allowing the authors to fix the bugs and get a better rating from someone else. We are working towards a competition where the first attempts of every game CAN be bugged, where we are encouraging authors to do a mad dash to include that glorious final gimmick, the one they wanted so badly to include but which broke half their game (knowing when NOT to dash and when to post-update or delay the release is a necessary skill, though). We are minimising the bugs, overlooking them to focus on other things. That means the author will do the same.

It’s just a matter of choosing one - the latter one seems to be what most people prefer, and sure, it fits with the more relaxed theme of the comp and especially the spring thing. It’s not the end-all of competitions, though, and it amuses me that some people are arguing so strongly that it is, and that it is their given right. I wonder how well some of the people doing that fare, or would fare, at an actual real life competition where things aren’t quite so cuddly.

Yeah, me too. I was trying to come up with a compromise that both sides might be able to agree on. Allowing updates during the voting period is a real problem for me and the sole reason why I haven’t entered the IFComp since it was introduced, but I’d be willing to enter the comp if it only allowed updates up to a certain point. Even if I didn’t enter the comp itself, I’d be interested in voting and reviewing games if the updates were only allowed to begin with. (In my mind, the first part of the comp would be a public beta-testing period with the real comp actually beginning when the updates stop.)

Some people seem in favour of my idea and some are against, which I certainly expected. There isn’t a solution which is going to satisfy both sides of the argument so a compromise is the best we can hope for.

The IFComp rule allowing in-comp updates has been in place since 2011. I have yet to see anyone present evidence, even just their impression/feelings/gut reaction to the games, that this has actually resulted in authors releasing buggier games. On the contrary, the discussion I’ve observed (in contexts other than discussion of the update rule) has leaned the other way. People seem to feel that the overall quality of IFComp games has improved in recent years, and that we rarely see the kind of unplayably broken games that used to be entered every year.

Going back to the original post in this thread: I would love for there to be a competition or event of some kind for interactive text-based and text-heavy works in general, whether digital or analog. Something that encouraged different game-making and interactive story communities to look at each other’s work and share ideas and design insights. Perhaps it could award ribbons (or whatever) for achievements in particular areas of writing and design, like the XYZZY Award categories. I’d be very excited to see the works it attracted and the conversation around it.

I don’t know that Spring Thing should be that event. It might be better to start something fresh. I’d like for Spring Thing to continue to have a more open approach to the Back Garden entries, though. If someone would like their tabletop RPG or gamebook or visual novel or RPG Maker conversation game to appear in the Spring Thing Back Garden, I’m interested to see what they’re bringing to the IF conversation.

Next Comp I’ll be sure to check how many updates a given game goes through. This last Comp it was like every day for the first two weeks of October at least two games got updated, but I tend towards hyperbole.

It doesn’t equal horribly broken and horribly buggy games, of course, because no participant WANTS a buggy game. The mindset I’m talking about does not MEAN that automatically we’ll have buggier games. People are a bit more complex than that, thank heavens. But bugs are no longer such a big deal. This can be verified by the number of updates, and again, I’ll be sure to tally that next time around.

This sort of thing does not automatically result in worse games, is my point. Just a different way of looking at things. And the conflict here between the various points of view seems to be exactly the conflict between these different ways of looking at it.

That factors other things in as well. Like the boom of CYOA, where instead of having CYOA people doing broken parser games we have CYOA people doing good CYOA games. I mean, you bring up a good point, and it may be related to the updates thing, but it may also be related to a number of others and is probably just a combination of factors.

EDIT - Hang on, didn’t we have two games that were more or less still being developed even in the last Comp? “To Burn in memory” and “Emily is Away”? I mean, Emily is Away was a finished product, but was intended as a sort of preview and still being worked on for post-comp commercial release. “To Burn in Memory” kept getting significantly updated, as I recall. I admit I’m hazy here and would be welcome for corrections - but this does look like two entries that turned the IFComp into IntroComp for their purposes, which seems less than ideal.

“Scarlet Sails” of course got a whopper of a post-comp release, but that’s what it was, a post-comp release, so it’s not relevant. Although… if we could know how many people actually went for the post-comp release of Scarlet Sails, it might aid in our tangent of “are post-comp releases even worth it, do people play them”. Mind you, the post-comp release wasn’t free. Meh, I don’t know. So many factors.

I think this works about right. For Problems Compound in IFComp 2015 I was really fighting over whether I should submit a change with a week left. It was in the ending, and I thought it was a more clever way to wrap things up than what seemed like a placeholder. I wanted it in there for posterity. I had other changes to make, such as adding more bad food for Alec to eat, but that seemed like too much of a new feature.

But then it felt like it might be pushing the judges a bit eg HEY PLAY MY IMPROVED GAME IF YOU’RE PLAYING OVER THE LAST WEEK. So I deliberately submitted it at the last minute, and JMac said he’d rather have something more people had played, and that was okay, but I wish I’d asked earlier, because it was on my mind.

What I did was a bit of an edge case, but my intent was not to shake things up–just to say, yes, this is my final product. The thing is, we don’t have firm rules about this, but I think the compromise works in theory, as long as the rules are set. So I think my dilemma and JMac’s decision apply to any comp where you can update.

Perhaps one option would be to let authors potentially push a button to say, ok, no more updates. This would be unbreakable, and it would give them obvious risk as opposed to others, but…I think it might be a way to reward who are able to test their game fully. There’s a bit of gaming strategy going on here, and I don’t see a way around that, but this would make full testing of a game a positive goal vs “BETTER NOT BREAK SOMETHING.”

People aren’t perfect and I suspect I enjoy buggy/incomplete games more than most (I may be biased given the bugs I let slip) and I want them to have a chance to grow. I think any rules have potential for abuse but if possible I’d like the abuse to have the greatest upside e.g. people actually finding ways to create things.

I don’t think that the number of updates really verifies that bugs are not such a big deal. I feel like before 2011, games would sometimes release with bugs, and people would sometimes say, “Oh well it has some bugs, that’ll happen sometimes,” and other people would really get annoyed about the bugs–much like the status quo. But there wouldn’t be any updates, because you couldn’t update.

I might be misunderstanding what you mean by bugs not being such a big deal, though.

I do agree with this one–there are a lot of factors going into the overall quality of comp games.

Hmm, “Emily Is Away” is a special case (which ended with its being withdrawn from the comp), but as I remember To Burn In Memory’s issues mostly had to do with technical fixes about web presentation–most prominently making sure everyone played on the website after the author mistakenly loaded the wrong thing to the wrong box on the IFComp submission site (because the multimedia resources needed to make the game work were only on the website, not on the downloadable version), also making sure that the bottom of the window wasn’t cut off on some browsers. There does seem to have been a “free roam” patch added in the last week, but it kind of seems like that was an optional extra.

Of course since everything was on his website he could’ve been quietly adding content the whole time without letting us know, but I played it pretty early on and once the scrolling issue was resolved it was a complete game.

I’d definitely make an exception to the “nobody bothers with post-comp releases” generalization for things that get released on a different platform, like the Scarlet Sails release on CoG (and PataNoir’s mobile release, and for that matter To Burn In Memory on Steam). Also for some really major ongoing projects like Kerkerkruip and… did anyone but me play the post-comp releases of Calm? That was a game that had a lot of potential and a fair number of bugs in comp and was really improved by its post-comp version. It’s also very cool, people should play it.

Anyhow, these are all pretty huge undertakings–I think maybe it takes that kind of big undertaking to draw people to your post-comp release, and that’s kind of draining if what you really want to do is fix a few bugs and bumps.

My answer to this is the same as it always is: if you don’t like the rules, or the current slate of games, or whatever, then write your own and prove that they are worthy. Or if you don’t, ask yourself why not. And then ask yourself why everyone who does actually write things overwhelmingly finds these changes to be positive.

Not everyone who actually writes things finds the changes to be positive, and isn’t the whole point of this thread to discuss the topic in hand? If no one was expected to offer an opinion, there wouldn’t be any reason to ask the questions in the first place.

who? i’m honestly not sure i’ve seen a single author who submitted in spring thing or ifcomp (which wouldn’t even be on-topic) this year or last who’s in favor of increasing restrictions on authors.