Testing vs. Judging in IFComp2021

Just wanted to remind everyone that judges in IFComp are forbidden to rate any games they have tested.

This can be a pity for “normal” testers like me, but it might be of particular note to any authors who are trading testing services.

The Miss Congeniality award is an award given by authors to what they (and they alone) consider the best game, regardless of the general public’s vote. If there’s extensive test-trading going on among authors, they are excluding themselves from voting for games they may feel are worthy of the Miss Congeniality award.

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True! Also worth noting that at least for this year, judges’ votes will count towards the main results, not just the Miss Congeniality side-context (see the note about 2021 updates in the Comp rules).

With that said, the value of feedback from a motivated tester who’s got some experience making their own game is generally pretty high, so even for authors really motivated by where they’ll wind up in the ratings, they’ll probably see higher scores from doing the testing and making improvements, even if they miss out on a potentially-high rating from a potentially-simpatico fellow author (though of course the law of diminishing returns does eventually kick in!)


But…but… What if everyone is testing everyone else’s game?

-random non sequitur- **Won’t someone please think of the children?! **-/random non sequitur-

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That’s a bummer and, like @DeusIrae mentions, certainly a consideration when I test a game I’m likely to like, for an author I know. Or if someone tests for me. But I’d like to reiterate the point that a worthwhile transcript beats getting one rating. I suppose you could do the math. A good transcript is worth .25, easy. Thus a 10 won’t matter if you get 36 total votes (or less. This assumes everyone rated your game a 1 and your friend gave it a 10.)

But I imagine you saw the flip side: a bunch of testers who liked a game could potentially push it over the edge for the Miss Congeniality award. I have no idea how many people vote on Miss Congeniality each year, and when there were only 25 entries, this was a much starker concern.

However, I think the more entries there are, the less problems there will be that one vote causes chaos. The more voters, too. So this is another reason to have more voters.

And for me, trading testing with another author is a good way to remind me that the competitive aspect isn’t the main thing. If I spend time worrying about whether or not my work will place above a fellow competitor’s, that’s just naff. (Cliche alert) The most important thing is to do the best you can and to help others.


I wouldn’t trade my testers’ transcripts for anything. I don’t have any expectations for IFComp (I’ll be happy if I don’t get panned), so maybe it’s different for folks with a little more skin in the game. But as a total newbie, nothing is more satisfying than whacking an evil embarrassing bug found by a tester. I freely admit that I often talk aloud to bugs when I see them on transcripts, along the lines of “You’re exposed now, you little !%#@. Now I kill you.”


I often talk aloud to bugs when I see them on the floor, along the lines of “You’re exposed now, you little *%>#&. Now I carefully pick you up and put you in the garden.”

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I’m not sure this applies to Miss Congeniality. I asked in 2016, and while it’s not exactly a straight answer, it’s not a “no” either.


I have already written about I have played and voted a few (10) comps. I dislike how sometimes score list ends up but I don’t think there could be a cheating use for rising scores…
I really don’t comment games I had betatested and I think I have surely voted for none of them.

Hang on, this is interesting. Since voting for Miss Congeniality is now the same action as voting in the main competition, you can’t vote in one ranking but not the other, even though on precedent it seems you’re only allowed to vote in one.

I’ve asked about this on twitter again.


I am asking for clarification internally - I don’t believe there’s a problem since Miss Congeniality is a private vote with a different pool of participants and does not affect official ranking or placement, but I will try to secure official word.

Of course, the real danger when trading testing with other authors is the advice they give, given they all have their own horse in the race. If i think of all the poor souls I’ve told their prose needed more adjectives, or that their game lacked a maze, or that they should stick to Twine’s default styling…
Naturally, there have been a few who smelled the coffee and did the exact opposite of what i suggested, but that just turns the whole testing business into a game of rock-paper-scissors.


Haha. But one way to look at it is: if I manage to leapfrog someone if they follow my canonical bad advice, I’m not going to place very well, myself. That’s the problem with tripping others up: the ones worth tripping up don’t get tripped up easily, and the ones who get tripped up easily aren’t worth tripping up. Sometimes one wonders why one even bothers!

I suspect there are more effective ways to mess with people who are a real threat to place highly, though.


Explain to them it’s been done before, or that it’s too weird for IFComp, or, the kicker “I’m sure you put a lot of work into it and all.” Also doable is “(well-known author) did that already, but if you think you can do as well, hey, you do you!”

Or write an essay about how their parser/choice game is an obvious cheap shot at the whole choice/parser game, and you noticed the meta-commentary.

There’s also railing about grammar and style mistakes in a poorly written mail of your own. You know, stuff like “YOU NEED MORE LINE BREAKS” in a 3000-word paragraph.

Or dumping a 200k transcript on them 2 days before the deadline saying “sorry dude lol i got busy.” Bonus points if you know they’ve improved their work a lot since they sent you that build.


I admit the veterans take a bit more imagination, but it’s perfectly doable. Something along the lines: “I understood your intention of the game as a modern-day re-reading of Paradise Lost, and I think it’s fitting to transpose the narrative to contemporary consumer society. Where it doesn’t quite come together, however, is in the language. I say, if you’ve already adopted MIlton’s ideas and characters in this way, you should copy his style as well!” That will usually sink them.
If all else fails, there is always the possibility to get them to withdraw a solid entry altogether. Sent shortly before the deadline, the following should work: “The pacing has improved considerably, but, looking at its entirety again, I now think it could be misconstrued as a veiled attack on (insert random minority here).”

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Wow!! Are these examples purely fictional or there are some real cases of such behavior? Thoroughly disgusted even with the idea of this. :face_vomiting:


Well, nothing that awful.

I’ve had testers operate in bad faith, but it’s very rare. Some are known trolls. I think the best way to deal with it is with humor. Fighting back doesn’t work. But even knowing this, I’ve focused on one tester’s bad feedback instead of ten testers’ constructive insights. And I don’t think I’m unique, and it’s important for people to know that if someone is being mean,

  1. it’s the person being mean
  2. any advice they give that you can act on does not wipe out their meanness or oblige you to them in any way.

I also think that along the lines of 2., some people will throw in a bit of truth with lies or nastiness to make it more effective and then say, well, you can’t handle the truth. It’s a common trick, but we need to call it out.

One of my games was construed as an attack on this community by someone who, I think, wanted to show people how much they know about the community and the best-known people in it and cut someone down at random. Even after I affirmed to myself they were acting in bad faith, it hurt.

This is getting off the subject of testing vs judging, but I do think that testers and judges who want to be cruel, can, and it can hurt more than a 1-score. So people worried about whether their votes should count are several levels above that.

We need as many ways to push back against that as possible, so 1) authors aren’t chased away and 2) judges and reviewers and testers don’t think that’s just the way things are done here, or this sort of trolling is Tough But Fair.


Me too! I was reading with amazement. This seems like such a weird way to cheat. It never even occurred to me that people would do this, although I don’t know why it didn’t occur. There are awful people everywhere.

I’m thankful that as a newbie asking for testers I didn’t attract this. I got a lot of brutal honesty, but it was all well-deserved.

There are certainly few people who’d admit to being victimized by such a terrible abuse of trust. Think of the shame, the stain on their name, were it to surface! No one would be able to conduct themselves towards them in any appropriate way: they would forever be the poor victim for the compassionate and the architects of their own downfall for the complacent. And since none of this takes place in the public eye, the testers preferring PMs or even e-mail, who knows how far it’s gone? These waters are dark and murky, I am afraid they may well turn out be a shark pool or even a crocodile pit. Be careful when you step in, be very careful.

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Well, OK. Maybe the tester who told me that the game-breaking bugs “added whimsy and charm” to my game was quite possibly not being completely honest.

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At the risk of explaining the joke – but doing so anyway, because how the community looks to relative newcomers is important – I’m pretty sure this is some mildly tasteless humour by people who wouldn’t dream of behaving this way. I’ve traded feedback with people I’m “competing” against and both our games have been better as a result. This has happened more than once with people I’ve narrowly been pipped by, or pipped, in competitions. I don’t believe for a second that anyone wasn’t being sincere.

Anyone who’d fall for these tricks probably wasn’t going to win, but anyone who’d try to pull them certainly wasn’t.


I agree with Robin. There’s a great sense of fair play among competitors, especially since the people you’re up against are often the people you’re a fan of, as well. It’s hard to disappointed if the person that wins is your friend with a really fun game that you enjoy playing.

I have maliciously used testing, once. There was a troll who gave my ifcomp game 1 star the first day it was posted on IFDB (and was known for posting very negative reviews in general that get a lot of downvotes). I asked him to beta test my next game in the hopes that he would feel some investment in it and not give it a 1 star next time. He ended up giving that game 3 stars when it came out, so I guess it worked? I’ve never tried anything like that again, though.