This is my second year entering IFComp, and I remember that I was surprised by quite a few things last year. So I thought it would be fun to compile some things as a sort of heads-up to people thinking about writing a game. Here’s my thoughts:
Bugs and typos are strongly frowned upon. Games with a lot of bugs tend to score very poorly, and typos are considered bugs. There was one reviewer last year who started every review with a quote from the game showing a bug or typo in it. If you have to pick between a big, buggy game and a small, very polished game, the polished game would more likely be successful. To help you out…
There are a lot of people willing to help. This forum has a subforum dedicated to beta testing. Every time I’ve asked for help, I’ve gotten quick responses. This page has some links to articles on good beta testing; the links to places to find collaborators are out of date (for instance, if.game-testing.org is defunct).
Judges can be harsh. The IFComp is probably the most harshly judged competition, and it attracts reviewers from several countries and from many different viewpoints. Every game got some negative review last year. Sam Kabo Ashwell has a great blog post about what to expect reviewers and how to handle bad reviews.
There is a private author’s forum in intfiction. When the comp starts, you’ll be linked to a private forum letting you talk to the other authors to have fun, vent, or to support each other.
Winning isn’t anything. Andrew Schultz gave me great advice last year: you can feel successful if you can enjoy every game that places higher than yours. Also, many people don’t even want to win; some just want to participate in the larger IF community, some want to get attention for their project, and some want to stir up controversy.
Miscellaneous The 2 hour rule can be interpreted in different ways, but if your game is going to take a lot longer than 2 hours to play, many people will not finish it. Spring Thing allows longer games, and this last Spring Thing attracted quite a bit of attention.
Also, Emily Short is not reviewing games this year, for various reasons. I mention this because many authors have worried about/pushed for these reviews in the past. Many others plan on reviewing IFComp this year, though (hopefully the breakfast reviews!).
Anyway, this was really long, but if anyone else has thoughts, feel free.