Thoughts after looking over all IFComp games: IFComp changed a lot in 2015

II spent a long time over the last two years trying to play every IFComp game. I got pretty close last year, then stopped, leaving 40 or so of the 952 games unplayed. This week, I’ve been trying to finish all of those.

Both times, I’ve been really surprised by the huge change that occurs as you reach 2015

The biggest change is a big uptick in overall quality and in quantity of good games. 2015 has 6 games with a score over 7, 2016 had 7, 2017 had 12, 2018 had 15. (Edit: before 2015, most years only had 3 or so games over 7, if that. It could be score creep, but I’m not sure.)

The number of games jumped up, as is well-documented. 2015 had about as much as the previous peak in the early 2000’s, and it’s gone higher than that ever since than. 2015 had almost twice as many games as 2012.

Another major change is cover art and blurbs. This trend really started around 2014. Suddenly almost all games have great cover art and good blurbs.

Finally, the variety of games has increased significantly, as well as the amount of multimedia in games. This also began around 2014, where the top 5 games had 5 different operating systems.

The reasons for all these changes aren’t completely unknown. Jason McIntosh took over in 2015 and made a lot of changes, and the website had been redesigned to display cover art and blurbs more prominently. The competition was advertised more.

As a final note, I’d like to say that the number of good parser games is much higher in recent years than in earlier. I’ve been playing many of those older parser games from past years, and so many were giant, bloated, buggy, unplayable messes. If there are less parser games now (which is itself debatable), it may be because standards are higher, and people are taking longer.

Think of the parser games that have come out of the comp since 2015: Wizard Snuffer, Brain Guzzlers, all of Groover’s games, DiBianca’s games, Alias the Magpie, Take, A Beauty Cold and Austere, Sub Rosa, Map, and many more in just a space of 4 years.

In that same time, Choice games have had major growth. Birdland, Bogeyman, Cactus Blue Motel, Liza Daly’s games, Will Not Let You Go, and others.

Anyway, it’s just really surprising. I don’t think it’s just a false pattern, because its hit me like a wall both times I looked at every game. Something fun to think about.

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The reasons for all these changes aren’t completely unknown. Jason McIntosh took over in 2015 and made a lot of changes, and the website had been redesigned to display cover art and blurbs more prominently. The competition was advertised more.

I first took the reins in 2014, in fact! (Which agrees with your other points…)

It’s far from a complete explanation for your observations, but I often say (and still believe) that the popular advent of Twine and other choice-IF tools, plus IFComp’s explicit turning from “This is for Inform games, TADS games, and other stuff” to “This is for all text-based games”, allowed more games to take the shapes they ought to have been, rather than having every sort of game get shoehorned into a parser-based model world. I believe that past IFComp years are full of low-scoring parser games that wished they had been made with Twine, but were tragically born too soon.

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Another possible contributing factor: it was in 2011 that updates during the comp were allowed for the first time (and wow, there was quite a controversy about that at the time!). Maybe it made many buggy or unplayable games substantially better, especially for parser games? (I don’t know if you’ve played the updated games or the games as they were first released.)

Admittedly, 2011 is four years before 2015. But maybe that new option took some time to be widely adopted?

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I agree that this probably led to less buggy games by the end of comp, as there’s a small incentive for authors to bug fix during the comp once updates were allowed. (I’ve entered four times and my first game before updates were allowed has still yet to get it’s postcomp bug fix).

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An excellent point! I should have had that in mind myself, since I rather suspect that my public moaning about my inability to repair my own buggy entry in 2010 may have played a role in getting that particular wheel greased…