Which comp and why?

Hi Cody, I wrote the polish tips post… sorry if my suggestions created some unnecessary fears for you! Personally, I do like tailored default messages, especially for the most commonly attempted verbs. I think it really steps up the game’s character. But as far as every object not having any default responses, that’s not true. In the article I was being particular about things that aren’t actually fixed in place… for instance the shards of a broken chandelier on the ground. My personal feeling is that if you’re going to liberally use a global dismissal message, it should be generic enough to be accurate. I don’t think the “fixed in place” message is a very good default unless it is restricted to a class of objects which are not merely untakeable by the player, but actually fixed. TADS(adv3) makes a distinction between those two classes, so the defaults can be appropriate to each.
But, if your game contains a lot of default responses, as long as those responses are not incongruent, I don’t think you need to fear that your game is “unpolished” or “frowned upon”!


I tested one of my games to the point that my last tester asked if I was playing a joke on him because he couldn’t find any problems at all; I think I had 14 testers or so and spent a lot of months on just the testing. I’ve done that with a couple of others, and those three are my top 3 games on IFDB.

Those were all games I was shooting for winning IFComp with, and they placed pretty high (2nd, 5th, and the third one won Miss Congeniality).

If you’re just trying to place in the top half, then I’d just keep sending it to testers until it doesn’t crash, softlock, or do something really awful. If it’s really complex, it doesn’t need quite as much polish; Emily Short’s Floatpoint won even though there’s one place where it’s easy to crash the game.

Edit: I consider Parsercomp to be roughly equivalent to IFComp in terms of quality, just smaller quantity.


Thanks, and no worries! I don’t mean to imply that these threads have sent me into some kind of spiral of anxiety. I am just questioning whether I need to do another pass through my code looking for every object that someone might conceivably try to TAKE and then explaining why they can’t. There’s still time for me to do this, I’m just wondering whether I need to.

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My feeling is that if it is an object that a player might conceivably try to take for some idea of advancement, the object deserves a cantTake message…

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As opposed to simply trying to make the parser put its foot in its mouth…

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Wow, that’s good advice.

I have been testing for almost a month now, and have had four testers actually send me feedback. There are a couple of others I suspect are going to send me feedback eventually but haven’t yet. I intend to do more rounds of testing if I can find more testers.

I’m currently caught up on fixing everything reported by my four testers, except for two notes on my to-do list which are both things I’m A) not sure are necessary to do at all, and B) not sure how to do. Both of these issues have open threads on this forum where I’m trying to figure out how to do them anyway (just in case).

One problem I have right now is that I have no idea how long my game actually takes for the average player to complete. Two of my four testers didn’t seem to attempt to complete the game at all (they just poked at things, kicked the tires, and identified issues, which was quite helpful), one tester completed the game very slowly over the course of several weeks (this tester’s transcripts were simultaneously the most disheartening to read and the most useful at identifying problems with the game) and the final tester played the game to 90% completion in a single sitting before hitting a bug and stopping, believing they were stuck (ironically this tester’s results restored my faith that the game was in fact comprehensible to players, so long as I fixed that one bug anyway).

Of course at this point I can play the game in less than half an hour without actually reading any of the text, so my own experience doesn’t count for measuring the length.



After the chandelier incident (and similar) I added a can’t take and can’t move message for each relevant object. I found using a table-based approach, and referencing the Inform Index to catalog the objects, it didn’t take long at all.


If you haven’t included it yet, one essential bit of polish is a hint system, or at the very least a walkthrough (although I personally hate walkthroughs). I get the feeling that judges in a comp get more annoyed at not being able to make progress than with “fixed in place” messages.


I’m hopefully covered in this. I’ve got a hint system in the menu and an NPC who can dole out information on just about any topic the player would want clues about. A couple of weeks ago I was worried that my game was completely incomprehensible, but then I did a couple of small changes to signpost the game’s main big harebrained puzzle and the next player who tested it blazed through the majority of the game without using the hint system. So maybe it’s comprehensible after all.

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Wow, Phil, sorry, that was not meant to be a jab! I didn’t even overtly remember that it was a chandelier in your case. I most recently saw shards in Garry’s game, and I literally thought I was generalizing by saying shards of a chandelier.

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:laughing: If I was upset, I wouldn’t respond. I’d just sit and stew.

ETA: I guess it was shards of a crystal sculpture after all.


There’ll be fewer games in ParserComp, so less chance of your game getting lost amongst all the others. Plus you’d be being compared with like games, parser against parser, rather than competing with lots of choice based games as well. And there’s no judging time limit per game like the 2 hour prescription in IFComp, so it’s a good place to put longer games (which your game definitely sounds like it is).

Having said that, there are definitely some potential advantages to putting it in IFComp instead! For one, the audience is larger and you’ll probably get more reviews, simply because it’s the highest profile competition. There’s also the not inconsiderable fact that they dole out real, hard cash, exchangeable for beer and snacks in real world, which would be enough incentive for me to enter any competition! (I think they disburse from top to bottom of the list, until the money runs out; quite a lot of entrants get something, so I’ve heard). We’re more frugal in ParserComp, having only a couple of *24 carat *solid *gold lamps to give out by way of prizes (alongside our warmest wishes). So that’s something to consider.

Possibly your choice of competition might depend on how much more polishing and testing you’re prepared to do and how badly you want the thing off your plate? It’s easy to let deadlines slip by knowing that there’s bound to be another competition a few months ahead (I’ve heard that @J_J_Guest has turned this into something of an art form). But if you pick an earlier deadline and work determinedly towards that it would give an incentive to get it done and dusted, and in front of an audience, with whatever warts there might still be.


I think the more testing the better, but there comes a point where you may find yourself going it alone. I had gotten a decent amount of time from testers, but in the last month or so of development people were ready to move on, and there were other community events going on, too. I don’t think I have anything new to add about testing. It’s great to go until you can’t go further. Afterward, I found enough to work on alone, but I’m not sure that would be beneficial in every case.

So far as which event to enter goes: do you particularly enjoy one event more than the other? What’s your development cycle like? Lots of people like to hit multiple events per year. If that’s you, you could do Parsercomp now and IF Comp later. If that isn’t you, then you have two ways to look at it. One is “how competitive could my game be?” That won’t matter at all for a lot of people, so another question is, “In what venue will like-minded players be likely to encounter my game?”

Ultimately, the way to best feature your game depends on your goals as a writer. Find a nice home for your game!

The real question is, where is the edge? Picking up a schoolbus probably doesn’t merit a custom response. A four-poster bed? A mattress? A blanket or pillow? Certainly, a hammer warrants a custom response. I don’t know where the edge is; it probably has something to do with the general vibe of your game, the narrative voice, and so forth. Players of austere, hard sci-fi will likely expect things that madcap fantasy players won’t, and vice versa.


This. My games tend to be a bit on the whimsical, (hopefully) humorous side, which means I feel I have to respond to unlikely requests. For instance in response to TAKE THE SCHOOLBUS, I might respond “I’m afraid today you’ll be playing hooky.” If I were writing AMFV, I probably wouldn’t do that.


Ideally I like to get a game playable and ready for beta testing six to nine months before the competition I’m aiming for, so that there’s plenty of time to polish it. If that means waiting for the next competition to swing around, so be It. I don’t enter themed game jams because I never finish in time. I have a bunch of unfinished game jam entries on my hard drive - was there one where the theme was “growth”? Some of them might one day emerge in different forms.